SHOPFLOOR MANDATE TRADE UNION
WINNING BIG! Mandate members have pocketed €30m in pay hikes since 2011
Right2Change for a better Ireland... As WE AppROAch the centenary of 1916, and the upcoming general election, we as active citizens will be faced with choices. These choices cannot be made in isolation from what is happening in our workplaces and our communities, we must join the dots, we must realise that political promises and policies have consequences, some immediate, but some delayed. We must also realise that those with power and influence desperately want to hang on to that power and influence, so expect an early outbreak of good news, giveaways, promises and spin, because in their eyes your vote has a price. But, please Join the Dots – tens of thousands of Mandate members and their families depend on the social wage, i.e. good schools, health care and welfare payments such as FIS and rent allowances, all of which should be paid from the proceeds of a progressive tax system. So parties promising big tax giveaways in the budget or in their political manifestos are undermining the State’s ability to provide a decent social wage – hence the class sizes will get bigger, the A&Es more overcrowded, more homeless, welfare payments reduced or capped and the introduction of further indirect and unfair charges such as water charges. But, of course that is of little concern to them or those who they really represent, they will try and buy your vote, but their real supporters – the powerful and the elite – will still be able to afford private schools, private housing, private health care and private transfer of wealth via pension schemes and low wealth tax. So do not be fooled by statements like “making work pay” or “putting money back in workers’ pockets”, this is all a scam to create one of the most unequal societies in Europe. If they really want to make work pay, they should introduce legislation to force employers to pay a decent living wage, a decent contract with decent hours and stop
the madness of Government subsidising employers paying low wages via Family Income Supplement and homelessness via rent supplements to private landlords. Irish workers and their families have a right to a decent job and the right to a home. Did you know that the Irish State last year spent nearly €300 million in topping up poverty wages because employers refuse to pay a Living Wage to their workers? And this is on top of the €500 million spent on various rent supplements to private landlords because this and previous governments have abandoned families seeking a home to the private markets of landlords and emergency accommodation of B&Bs and hotel rooms. There are now over 130,000 Irish families on Social Housing waiting lists and 5,000 families in emergency accommodation. And the only policy it would appear is to continue to line the pockets of landlords and hoteliers. In Dublin alone 1,200 children and their parents are forced into emergency accommodation [a B&B or hotel room] every night because they have no home. Thousands more are in fear of losing their home to banks and vulture funds to whom NAMA sold their home loans, and whose only interest is in flipping a profit from the misery of others. That is why Mandate, your union, is proud to be a member of the Right2Water Campaign and now a founding member of the Right2Change Movement (www.right2change.ie). Because there is a vision for a better Ireland, an Ireland where basic human rights – like a decent job, housing, health and education – are equally and freely available to all citizens regardless of their ability to pay. Right2Change is a political policy platform for change in society and we urge all Mandate members, families and friends to lend their support and get involved in their local community groups and by supporting progressive political parties and progressive independents who support the Right2Change principles. Please ensure that you, your family and friends are registered to vote at www.checktheregister.ie and that you all vote and vote strategically for change and a vision for a New Republic as we enter the centenary of 1916, your voice, your vote is the most powerful driver for change – please use it.
Shopfloor is published bi-monthly by Mandate Trade Union. Mandate Head Office, O'Lehane House, 9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 T: 01-8746321/2/3 F: 01-8729581 W: www.mandate.ie Design & Editing: Brazier Media E: email@example.com Shopfloor is edited, produced and printed by trade union labour
Newsagents’ body wants cut to oﬀset minimum wage rise
Cut employers’ PRSI call is ‘entirely predictable’
crease, then they can avail of an inability to pay clause. “This would be a much more reasonable and responsible measure to take rather than seeking tax benefits that would undermine our public finances and deteriorate our ability to tackle our crisis in health, education and homelessness.” Mr Light continued: “If Irish employers were to contribute the average PRSI Gerry Light: who picks up shortfall? rates relative to the rest of the EU, they would be paying an extra €8 billion per year. Instead of stepping up to the plate in order to help our public finances, they are calling for further reductions to what is already a miserably low rate meaning everybody else will have to fill the gap or face reduced public services.”
THE Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association (CSNA) has criticised the recently announced increase in the minimum wage of €0.50 per hour saying it will have a “difficult outcome” for their sector. The employers’ body has called for a reduction in the employers’ PRSI rate to compensate for any costs incurred by their members, despite Ireland already having the lowest employers’ PRSI rate in the EU. Mandate Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light said: “This type of call from an employers’ body is entirely predictable but also irresponsible. Ireland’s employers’ PRSI rate is already one third of the average in the EU, yet here we go again with calls to protect businesses. “Most Irish workers haven’t had a pay increase in almost eight years, yet when there are tentative signs of an economic recovery, rather than put their shoulder to the wheel, we have employers calling for tax breaks for their members, and if that happens, who will pick up the shortfall?” He added: “If a company is genuinely struggling to make ends meet and will be affected by this very modest in-
New collective agreement concluded at Argos A NEW and updated agreement between Argos and Mandate is being implemented across the company following a successful set of negotiations between management and union representatives. The deal covers all the principal areas of Industrial Relations engagement, such as clear procedures for the resolution of grievances/is-
sues, company/union forums and the use of state IR mechanisms. It also confirms both sides’ collaborative working approach to talks. As part of the agreement, access will be given to Mandate reps to all staff at mutually agreed times to ensure that all are given the opportunity to join the union.
Industrial Officer David Miskell told Shopfloor: “The agreement represents a step forward and ensure that Industrial Relations best practice is observed at all times.” According to the union, the agreement presents an opportunity to grow Mandate’s membership base as well as delivering improvements for its members in Argos.
Labour Court rules over Tesco Xmas Sundays
Picture: Gordon Joly (CC BY-SA 2.0)
General Secretary Mandate Trade Union
THE Labour Court has ruled in Mandate’s favour in a dispute over the allocation of Christmas Sundays in Tesco. In 2014, the leading retailer decided not to roster certain members of staff who had traditionally been rostered for a number of Sundays in the run up to Christmas. This move led to a significant loss of earnings. All those affected had continuously worked these Sundays since Sunday trading was introduced in the supermarket chain. The Labour Court recommended that the staff affected be rostered in 2015 for the same number of Sundays as they had worked in 2013 and that the company
should renegotiate any changes for future years. Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon told Shopfloor: “It was regrettable that the company took the decision it did, particularly as the staff in question are long-serving members of staff who worked those hours right from when Sunday trading was introduced.” Pointing out that the Labour Court had vindicated Mandate’s position, he added: “This is a further example of another unilateral change to terms of conditions of employment that seriously damages the relationship between the company and Mandate and gives us a serious cause for concern.”
y October 2015
Christy strikes a chord at Mandate session
By David Gibney Mandate communications officer CHRISTy Moore dropped into Mandate Head Office to play a small intimate gig for the Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strikers from 1984 on Friday, September 4. The gig was recorded by a film crew who are making a documentary about Christy Moore’s life and the songs he has sang over the years,
including the song he sang about the Dunnes Stores workers. On his arrival at the office, Christy brought out a Decency for Dunnes Workers poster and said: “All those years ago you guys stood up and had to fight against this company, and still, Dunnes workers are given no respect. Some things never change.” Christy launched into the Dunnes stores song, originally written by Sandra Kerr but adapted
by Christy, with the opening lyrics, “Close your eyes and come with me back to 1984, we’ll take a walk down Henry Street, to Dunnes Department Store” which was a surreal moment because he was singing the lyrics to the workers who stood for two years and nine months outside Dunnes on Henry Street for refusing to handle Apartheid South African goods. The workers were delighted to hear Christy
play the song, but also expressed their pleasure that almost all of the songs he sang were about women. They also had the privilege of hearing Christy play his new song oblivious in public for the very first time. l you can hear the Dunnes stores song on Mandate Trade Union’s youTube account. Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6cBDusBiHE
€16k unfair dismissal payout for Dunnes Stores worker A DUNNES Stores worker has been awarded €16,000 by the Employment Appeals Tribunal under the Unfair Dismissals Acts. The worker was summarily dismissed by Dunnes for selling alcohol to an under-age buyer who it turned out was part of a Garda undercover operation. Mandate pursued the case on behalf of the worker to the Employment Appeals Tribunal under the Unfair Dismissals Act. During the hearing, the Tribunal accepted that the selling of alcohol to someone under age was the proper subject of disciplinary proceedings October 2015
have been more appropriate in the circumstances.” Mr Moran added: “Regardless of what one is accused of, fair procedures must be followed. It is imperative that employers who do not do so are held to account for their employment practices.”
but pointed out that it did not automatically mean that termination of employment was an inevitable consequence.
The Tribunal was also highly critical of Dunnes Stores’ internal procedures and questioned the extent to which the claimant understood or could participate in a meaningful way in the disciplinary meetings given that English was not her first language. Furthermore, the Tribunal drew a very clear distinction between being “accompanied” to a meeting and being actively represented at one. One of the aspects of the case which
helped the member – and which was cited in the determination – was the fact that both she and Mandate had writtten to the company outlining the language difficulties and asking for union representation at the disciplinary hearing. The Tribunal was also critical of the
appeals process, referring to it as “cursory” and a “rubber-stamping exercise”. Divisional Organiser David Moran, who appeared on behalf of the claimant, welcomed the outcome. He told shopfloor: “Our member had more than six years of an unblemished record and a lesser sanction would
He also emphasised the importance of a paper trail when dealing with a company like Dunnes. “The determination also shows the value of ensuring that we establish a clear paper trail in seeking to represent our members as undoubtedly the existence of the letters written on her behalf assisted in winning her case.” 3
GENERAL NEWS By David Gibney Mandate communications officer SINCE the financial crisis began in 2008, Mandate members have had to put up with attacks on their living standards from all fronts; from their employers – through pay cuts, cuts in hours, reduced conditions of employment; from the free market where rents and property prices have all but emptied their pockets; and from government policies with cuts to loneparent’s allowance, child benefit, and the introduction of the USC, the property tax and now water charges. In 2012, Mandate published Decent Work: The Impact of the Recession on Low Paid Workers which showed that Mandate members in the retail sector had lost €109 per week due to all of the cuts up to that point – shockingly that equates to one-third of their incomes. If it weren’t for our members and other trade union members fighting back, things would be so much worse, not only for them, but for society in general. Mandate members have now won more than €30 million in pay increases since this current government took power in 2011. This excludes the number of workers who have won other entitlements like guaranteed earnings through banded hour contracts, enhanced redundancy packages, pension contributions, and much, much more. It also fails to capture the number of workers who were on frozen increments, which have now been “unfrozen”. Mandate’s 40,000 members now have a combined spending power of over half a billion euro – a number that would be so much lower if the bosses had been successful in their attacks on incomes. As workers in the retails sector, approximately 90% of this money is recirculated back into the local economy. It’s spent in local shops, bars, restaurants and other businesses, helping to generate employment and remove people from social welfare. It’s also boosting
As you continue to win pay increases and increase domestic spending, you give this Government scope to loosen the purse strings. The question is, will they spend it on you and your family through increasing public spending, or will they give it in tax cuts..?
the Government’s coffers through increased PRSI contributions – both employer and employees, increased income tax rates, increased VAT, etc, etc. The increases have also helped to reduce the Government’s spending
on social insurance contributions including the part-time dole and Family Income Supplement making the Government’s balance sheet look even healthier. All of these benefits were fought
for by trade union members. They weren’t handed down from a benevolent employer or politician. Some of our members had to go on strike, walking the streets in the cold and the rain, over the past four years in order to either protect their existing terms and conditions of employment, or to fight for better ones. yet now we hear from the commentariat and politicians about a recovery. A recovery for whom? It’s not a recovery for the 40 people losing their homes every month. It’s not a
recovery for the 400 to 600 people waiting on hospital trolleys around the country right now. It’s not a recovery for the 250,000 people still languishing on the dole because for every job vacancy, there’s 23 applicants. And it certainly isn’t a recovery for the 300,000 of our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters who were forced to emigrate due to the policy of “protect the banks (and bankers) at all costs”. In the last Budget, the Government gave tax breaks to some of the top earners in the country. They gave tax breaks to corporations too. Those tax breaks were only possible because of all the hard work and sacrifices Mandate members – and other trade union members – have experienced in order to boost and protect their incomes. And now more tax cuts are planned for this Budget. Bear in mind that every time there’s a tax cut, there’s a corresponding reduction in public services, such as subsidies to public transport, meaning the costs for buses and trains go up. Tax cuts mean our public healthcare system remains in dilapidation with 90 year old women waiting 48 hours to be seen by a doctor in A&E. And tax cuts for high earners mean cuts to social welfare for vulnerable people like lone parents. So when this Budget comes around in a few days, take note of all of the economic policies being implemented. Remember we are less than six months out from an election and some of the key decisions made by government Ministers will reflect this reality. If we are building a recovery in Ireland, but it’s built on the sacrifices of us, the workers who have fought for improved terms and conditions of employment over the past four years. We are the wealth generators of this country, not the politicians or the employers.
Budget 2016 – Mandate demands
Budget 2015 provides some opportunities for the Irish government and some very important choices. Mandate has produced a number of progressive proposals that can be implemented leading to a fairer and more equal society. Mandate’s Budget recommendations include:
Abolish water charges
Invest in affordable childcare
l l l
Invest in social housing Implement refundable tax credits
Increase employer’s PRSI gradually, beginning with those earning over €100,000
No increase in the income tax threshold
No tax cuts
Restore social welfare rates for young workers
Introduction of a 6% minimum floor on corporation tax
Introduce universal healthcare
Introduce a wealth tax
Introduce an online shopping tax.
y October 2015
Tesco reps at the September 29 meeting
Tesco pay claim heading for the Labour Court since the last national meeting, specifically the 900 redundancies across the company and Tesco’s decision not to pay the share bonus in 2015, the decision to refer the issues in dispute to a full hearing of the Labour Court was put on hold pending a national meeting of shop stewards on September 29.
A well-attended meeting heard a full report from the Tesco National Strategy Group, including the contents of a letter submitted by the company on September 18 which offered a 1.5% one-off lump sum payment only those staff who the company had decided not to pay a share bonus payment to. This offer was being made in full and final set-
tlement of all the issues being considered in the LRC. The company’s proposal was put to a vote of the meeting and unanimously rejected. Commenting on the company’s offer and the subsequent decision of the national shop stewards meeting to reject it, Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon told shopfloor: “I congratulate the representatives for standing together and not allowing the clearly-divisive proposal tabled by the company from distracting them from pursuing their agenda on behalf of all the members working in Tesco Ireland.” The meeting subsequently went on to mandate the national negotiating group to pursue all aspects of the claim to ensure that all workers got the recognition they deserve for making Picture: Mandate
FOLLOWING the collapse of local negotiations a conciliation conference with Tesco Ireland took place at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) on September 7. Despite the efforts of the Commission no progress could be made on the issues of pay, hours and the non-payment of the share bonus scheme. The company refused to provide any meaningful evidence to support its case that it could not afford to pay an increase and in fact made no secret of the fact that it is extremely profitable. Instead the company continued to rely on a “declining sales” defence as the justification for its position. As a result of two significant developments
Tesco Ireland the leading grocery retailer in the country. Mr O’Hanlon added: “This was obvious from the massive redundancy programme across the country – the terms of which were not negotiated with Mandate – where Tesco had decided to allocate its financial resources. The company don’t appear to see the irony that the workers left behind are the ones who will be tasked with continuing to drive the business forward while they get no recognition for all their efforts.” The union, working on behalf of all the workers in Tesco, have sought to reconvene the conciliation conference with a view to processing the issues in dispute in accordance with the agreed company/union procedures.
Sorting Office dispute suspended A POTENTIAL POSTAL crisis has been averted after CWU agreed to suspend industrial action at An Post’s sorting centres following the intervention of a mediator. In particular, CWU General Secretary Steve Fitzpatrick welcomed the October 6 reinstatement of 36 IO Systems workers employed as contractors by An Post. The workers had been on strike for four days over a dispute involving a new rostering arrangement which would have had a signficant impact on their take-home pay. According to the CWU, the new roster would have required them to work five days of eight-hour
shifts instead of seven days of 12hour shifts. Mr Fitzpatrick said: “We welcome the decision of the company to re-instate its workers to their agreed rostering arrangements and wage levels. “As we have consistently stated, we are prepared to engage, but only on the basis that workers at IO Systems have their jobs restored to their agreed wage levels.” He added: “We are also prepared to back [mediator] Phil Flynn’s intervention in good faith. However, we hope that IO Systems, or indeed An Post management, don’t squander the opportunity that is being presented.” 5
Picture: ITU Pictures/J.Ohle (CC BY 2.0)
Jimmy Kelly:’marks final step...’
Picture: Niall Collins (CC BY 2.0)
DSP makes €34m pensions payout to ex-Waterford Crystal workers UNITE has welcomed “the final step” in the battle for pension justice for former Waterford crystal workers after the Department of social protection lodged payments, totalling €34m, into over 1,250 accounts on september 16. It follows a settlement to the issue
brokered by Unite on behalf of its members. Jimmy Kelly, the union’s Ireland secretary, told Shopfloor: “This marks the final step in a long battle for pension justice – a battle which could never have been won by an individual acting alone. Only by acting collec-
tively through a trade union has it been possible for former Waterford crystal workers to vindicate their rights. In that regard I would like to thank all our members for their support during this long process. “All remaining claims will be processed in
‘Fantastic news!’ New EROs to give 50,000 workers a wage hike
By David Gibney Mandate communications officer MANDATE has welcomed the signing into law of two new Employment Regulation Orders (EROs) which will give 50,000 workers in lowpaid industries a pay increase. Mandate General Secretary John Douglas, above, said this represents a significant milestone in the fight against low pay and insecure work. “This is fantastic news for all of the workers in the security and cleaning industries – and credit must be given to all of the trade union members who mobilised to make this happen. “The refusal by the retail employers’ bodies to engage in the new JLC system exposes their attitude towards vulnerable, low-paid workers
and the State’s industrial relations practices.” Meanwhile, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions also welcomed the new EROs, claiming the move marked “a significant advance in the trade union campaign against low pay and precarious employment.” Congress General Secretary Patricia King said the restoration of the Joint Labour Committee (JLCs) system and the signing of the orders by Minister Ged Nash meant an immediate and very welcome pay rise for some 50,000 workers in the security and contract cleaning, but also marked a reversal of the downward trends of recent years. She continued: “The restoration of the JLC system – struck down in 2011 by the courts – represents a significant advance in our campaign against low pay. It
also represents real upward movement in employment standards for the lower paid, perhaps for the first time since 2009.” Ms King was critical of employers who have failed to engage with the reinstated JLC system – in the retail, hospitality and accommodation sectors – pointing out that they could not “continue to ignore the law of the land and the civilised conduct of industrial relations”. She added: “Nor can they continue to deny their workforce the wage rise they are now entitled to – especially in light of increased profit levels and the fact that some sectors benefit from favourable state treatment with regard to reduced VAT.”
ETUC Congress passes emergency motion on NI impasse THE 13TH Congress of the European Trade Union Confederation, which met in Paris earlier this month, has passed an emergency motion on Northern Ireland, declaring support for peaceful progress and against the re-imposition of direct rule and further austerity. The emergency motion, put forward by 6
ICTU, called on the ETUC to intervene to demand that all Northern Ireland parties, with the help of the British, Irish and US governments, work to resolve “the political impasse”. The motion expressed its backing for the Devolved Administration of Northern Ireland and underlined the importance of
providing the necessary “ﬁnancial stimulus” to ensure “the continuation of the political institutions.” The motion also lashed the imposition of austerity measures on the people of Northern Ireland, ﬂagging up how this constituted a “major impediment” to resolving the impasse in a “society emerg-
ing from conﬂict”. It warned that the failure of talks could lead to consequences that were “unimaginable for the workers and citizens of Northern Ireland” and could result in the “emergence from the shadows” of dissident paramilitaries to ﬁll the political vacuum.
the coming weeks. he added: “This is not only good news for the workers and families concerned – it will also provide a welcome boost to the economy of Waterford and the south-East.”
New disability strategy is badly needed – ICTU ThE IRIsh congress of Trade Unions has welcomed the launch of the new Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities. congress Equality Officer David Joyce claimed the strategy was long-awaited and badly-needed. he told Shopfloor: “It will help lay the building blocks necessary to increase the number of people with disabilities at work. The strategy is badly needed given that people with disabilities are only half as likely to be in employment as others of working age. congress will work to ensure that the overall goal of the strategy – to ensure people with disabilities enter employment and enjoy a rewarding career – becomes a reality.” Mr Joyce pointed out that congress, through the participation of its national network of centres in the recent Disability Activation Project, had been working towards inclusive job creation. he continued: “Our Training Options programme, which provided training and skills upgrades to people with disabilities, proved a great success with 412 learners having completed the process, 40 of whom went on to be trained as mentors and 125 employers engaging with us to provide work experience and 69 people gained employment as a result. "It is important that the lessons learnt from this work inform the implementation of the strategy. “We would hope the strategy will form an integral part of the next version of the Action Plan for Jobs as it is unacceptable that people with disabilities are excluded from mainstream employment strategies,” Mr Joyce added. SHOPFLOOR
y October 2015
Why has the Government failed to tackle media monopolies?
NUJ Ireland Secretary
Stranglehold Ultimately, the refusal of the Government to break the stranglehold on media ownership that already exists in Ireland undermines the value of the process undertaken by Minister White. We need an independent commission to examine all aspects of media ownership and control. It would also look at public service broadcasting and funding models, along with public policy in relation to the commercial television, radio and digital broadcasting sectors. We need politicians to realise that
Denis O’Brien: dominant player
Those who own ink barrels – or their modern equivalent – should not be left to shape the media landscape in Ireland or elsewhere media ownership and control is an issue of fundamental importance to democracy. The recent guidelines actually suggest that Minister White and his col-
leagues realise there is a problem with the ownership structure but are unwilling – or feel unable - to do any more than give assurances about the future. Retrospective measures have been ruled out. But, in a market where Independent News & Media titles account for more than 40% of all national newspaper sales and just three groups own 23 of our 37 radio stations, it is simply not good enough to propose new guidelines for the future while ignoring the unpleasant reality of the present. Thus, the guidelines fail to address in way legitimate and growing concern around the dominant position of billionaire media tycoon Denis
Picture: Jeff Eaton (CC BY-SA 2.0)
WHILE it is now Congress policy to support the establishment of a Commission on the Future of the Media in Ireland, I am not naïve enough to believe that it will top the agenda at many union meetings. This follows the passing of a motion from the NUJ at the Biennial Delegate Conference 2015, in July. Concepts of media diversity and plurality seem removed from the lives of most citizens but the ownership and control of the media – the shaping of news and public opinion – has a very direct impact on all of us. We are seeking the establishment of a commission for the very simple reason that concentration of media ownership directly influences the news we receive – and do not receive – every day. That’s why I was so disappointed
Picture: ITU Pictures/J.Ohle (CC BY 2.0)
by the Guidelines on Media Merges & Takeovers published by Communications Minister Alex White, over the summer. The tone is certainly positive. The guidelines include commitments to consider the public interest when considering future applications for media acquisitions and a strong emphasis on diversity in the provision of news. But that’s where the good news ends. Soothing language without strong legislative measures to deal with the existing media landscape means little.
Picture: David Jones (CC BY 2.0)
Meet Ireland Ink...
O’Brien. In any debate on media ownership it’s hard to avoid O’Brien. Having failed to tackle the issue of media monopolies during the reign of Tony O’Reilly, Irish politicians now seem afraid to face down Denis O’Brien. O’Brien is combative, ruthless and relentless in pursuit of his commercial interests. Most capitalists are. We need politicians who are not afraid of the long shadow O’Brien casts and who are equally combative and relentless in protecting the public interest. O’Brien himself insists he does not control INM but through board appointments and the implementation of his policies and commercial strategies he has a ‘chilling effect’ on the Irish media landscape. Journalism is not just about making money. Journalists are not just ‘data providers’, news is not just ‘content’ package to generate and maximise revenue.
Dominant Although O’Brien is the dominant player – across all platforms – there are also other dominant owners in the broadcasting and regional press sector. While ownership is the key concern it is not the only issue confronting the media. There are many other threats to public interest journalism, including: the absence of comprehensive, in-service training programmes, the reliance on cheap or free labour, the growing threat to union organisation and the undermining of collective bargaining. In addition, lack of gender and ethnic diversity remains a concern, both in public service broadcasting and the private sector. In the run-up to the general election it is likely that most political parties will be tempted to live by the old adage: “Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel.” Congress should seek to build a broad political consensus on the establishment of a media commission, with agreed terms of reference, an independent chair and maximum civil society involvement. Those who own ink barrels – or their modern equivalent – should not be left to shape the media landscape in Ireland or elsewhere. This article originally appeared on the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ blog page. This and all past contributions can be read at: http://www.ictu.ie/blog 7
Mandate to launch survey of working hours MANDATE is set to launch a comprehensive survey looking at working hours in Boots. Following on from a recent set of discussions, which resulted in a pay increase for Boots workers, it was decided that further engagement involving both members and non-members in Boots would look at a range of other issues. These included the various contract types offered by the company as well as flexibility requirements, minimum guaranteed and actual hours worked. In 2010, a comprehensive agreement had been brokered between Boots and Mandate which
Learning and Development Diplomas...
brought much greater certainty about working hours and the whole issue of work-life balance. Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon, who led discussions with management on behalf of Mandate, told shopfloor: “While we have made significant progress with Boots on certainty of hours in the past, we always look to further advance our decent work agenda.” It is understood findings from the survey will be used to inform future discussions with management and to insure that members’ views and concerns are placed right at the centre of those talks.
Heatons staﬀ due to receive 2% pay hike MANDATE members at Heatons are due to receive a 2% pay rise from October 1. The pay increase is part of a range of issues covered by an
agreement reached with the company in April 2014. Divisional Organiser Bill Kelly told shopfloor: “The agreement expires at the end of
December and in the coming months Mandate officials will be consulting with members to set priorities for future discussions with the company.”
smiles all around – and no wonder – this group, drawn from various unions, have just been awarded a University college cork Diploma in Learning and Development at an awards ceremony held at Mandate’s Training and Organising centre on Friday, september 18. The course was delivered by Union college in partnership with IITD.
Training & Professional Development...
y October 2015
King: Charter drive ‘can win living wage’
‘A little help please’
The picture that should shame our government
cONGREss General secretary patricia King has said that companies who pay the living wage in the UK must ensure their Irish subsidiaries and branches do likewise and go further by pledging support for the congress Charter for Fair Conditions at Work. Attending the Living Wage Forum in Dublin castle – organised by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation – the congress General secretary said the congress charter campaign represented the best opportunity to "win the Living Wage in Ireland." Ms King said she was reassured to hear UK companies express support for the Living Wage but wondered at "the often open hostility of their Irish branches and subsidiaries that we have experienced, to any notion of decent pay and conditions and the right to trade union representation." she said congress looked forward to engaging with these companies on support for the provisions of the charter and also expected to meet with all county councils in relation to this campaign, in the coming weeks. More than 100 TDs and MEps have already signed in support of the campaign. For more information, check out: http://www.ictu.ie/congresscharter/
THIS shocking photograph shows a woman, who is thought to be in her 80s, asking for money with a sign which reads: “A little help, please.” The pensioner is from the Finglas area of Dublin and is not homeless but needs the money for her heating in the winter. She was spotted as protesters made their way to a demonstration in the capital on a Saturday in September. Some walked by as the elderly woman froze on the ground – perhaps becoming desensitised due to the current homelessness crisis in the capital. One of the few who stopped to see if she was alright was Karen Smith who contacted Liveline on RTE Radio One and sent them one of her photos. She said she was “sickened to see the sight of a pensioner begging”. “She said she wasn’t homeless but that she needed the money for her bills like her heating and for
food. To tell you the truth I was heartbroken.” Older people in Ireland have been suffering more since the beginning of austerity with prescription charges increased, telephone allowance scrapped and the fuel allowances cut. Before the current crisis, Ireland already had a bad record in terms of caring for older people: Mandate Communications Officer David Gibney said: “In 2007, Ireland already had one of the highest levels of fuel poverty in the EU. That problem has now been exacerbated with more than 400,000 people now experiencing fuel poverty. “Related to this is the fact that Ireland has the highest excess winter mortality rate in Europe with more people dying in the winter months than much colder countries like Sweden and Finland. This is the result of failed public policy and a refusal to tackle this issue.”
Retail workers survey launched
MANDATE has launched an online survey to establish conditions of employment in the retail sector in Ireland. The survey, which went live on Tuesday, October 6, is open to all retail workers in Ireland. One of the key aims of the survey is to investigate the prevalence of low-pay and low-hour
contracts in the retail industry, and the impact this has on workers. It will also look into the treatment of staff in terms of respect and dignity in the workplace. Finally, now that there is talk of recovery in the retail sector, it will establish whether retail workers are receiving their fair share of that recovery.
Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light told shopfloor: “Ireland currently has the second highest prevalence of low pay in the entire OECD and the second highest prevalence of underemployment in the EU15. We want to establish the impact on working conditions that new arrivals into the Irish market, such as Lidl,
Mandate members urged to complete childcare survey
Pictures: Province of British Colombia (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
ThE cOsT of childcare in Ireland is widely acknowledged as being too high and poses an intolerable burden for working families – particularly retail workers. IcTU is carrying out a survey of union members and we are urging Mandate members to take part. The survey can be accessed at http://irishcongress.poll daddy.com/s/childcare?p=1 In other European countries, fulltime childcare can cost as little as €150 per month and in some countries it is free (France). here, childcare costs range from €600 (rural) up to €1,000 (Dublin). Bringing childcare costs down to European levels would lead to savings of thousands of euro for families. high childcare costs in Ireland make it prohibitive for many workers in low-paid indus-
tries to take part in the workforce. General secretary John Douglas told Shopﬂoor: “We need radical changes in the way childcare is delivered for working families. In order to help us formulate our childcare policy for the trade union movement and establish what working families want and need, it’s important that as many Mandate members ﬁll in this survey as possible.” he continued: “As a National Organisation, the Irish congress of Trade Unions has an opportunity to inﬂuence the national discussion on childcare that will no doubt be a topical issue in the upcoming General Election. The larger the survey sample, the more valuable the results will be. please share this survey with all of your colleagues and fellow Mandate members.”
Aldi and Dealz are having. “Late last year we surveyed 1,400 Dunnes Stores workers,” added Mr Light, “and the results were simply frightening. Some 98% of workers surveyed said they want more stable hours, while 85% said the allocation of hours was being used as a method of control over them. We are trying to establish whether this is replicated in the wider retail sector, and if so, how it can be challenged.”
He continued: “Recent Kantar figures show that over the last 18 months the Irish grocery market has experienced consecutive growth. We want to establish whether workers are sharing in this sustained growth.” Mandate also say the survey will help them to compare working conditions between in the unionised and non-union sectors in Ireland. Mandate are asking all retail workers to complete the survey by Friday, October 30. The results of the survey will be published in mid-October. The wholesale and retail sector is the largest employment sector in Ireland with more than 271,000 people working in it. It also represents one of the lowest paid sectors, most flexible workforces and one of the most non-compliant sectors in terms of employment law with 41% of inspections conducted by the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) in breach of legislation. 9
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Mandy La Combre, right, speaking at the 4th Annual March for Choice in Dublin
12,000 march for choice
THE 4th Annual March for Choice took place on Saturday, September 26 calling for changes in Ireland’s abortion law and the repeal of the 8th Amendment. The march, organised by Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC), began at the Garden of Remembrance at 2pm, and the sunny day was matched only by the uplifting spirit of the crowd and the numerous and diverse display of banners and flags from protestors. The crowd – estimated to number upwards of 12,000 – comprised prochoice activists from all walks of life and all ages. Banners were seen from groups such as ARC, The Coalition to Repeal the 8th, LGBT, student unions, and the Trade Union Campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment to name a few. There were trade union banners from Mandate, Unite and ICTU as well as banners from Doctors for Choice, Lawyers for Choice and Amnesty International. A recent Red C poll has found 80% backing for the repeal of the 8th Amendment. And a demo was also held in Parliament Square, London, to show solidarity with the Dublin marchers and to highlight the plight of the thousands of women forced to travel to the UK for a procedure they can’t obtain in their own country. Mandy La Combre spoke at the demo on behalf of the Trade Union Campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment. Mandate member Mandy, who is on the union’s National Executive Council, explained why repealing the 8th amendment was a trade union issue. She said: “The Trade Union Campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment is continuing in the tradition that trade unions played historically in 1983 campaigning for a woman’s right to choose. And just this week I can announce that ICTU has officially come out in support of our campaign. “The trade union movement is the largest social justice organisation in society, with 800,000 trade union members north and south of the border – think what could be achieved if we started to get away from trade unions being for the workplace only, and started to think of them as a human rights organisation! Think of the amazing possibilities if we were to mobilise that number of people, especially on the issue of ‘repeal’.” Ms La Combre pointed out that women made up over half of trade union members in Ireland and that half of those earned less than €20,000 a year. “If a woman finds herself in the position of a crisis pregnancy, the 8th Amendment as it stands forces her to travel abroad. This can cost anything
from €800 to €2,000 – for a low paid worker, this can equate to up to 10% or more of their annual income.” She continued: “They may also be forced to take unplanned or unpaid leave at an added cost. The situation is significantly worse for no-income or migrant women, which means that facing this dilemma falls hardest on the poorest. “This amounts to significant stress for a low-paid worker, that compounded with the added emotional stress of travelling abroad often in fear and distress, denies women any semblance of dignity and is an affront to their basic human rights.” Ms La Combre said that women who tried to obtain abortion pills online could face up to 14 years in prison. “We are not criminals! you are not a criminal. I am not a criminal! And we refuse to be treated as such!” She told the crowd that more than 150,000 women from Ireland had sought abortions overseas since 1983 – with 12 or more women travelling each day “for a medical procedure they cannot obtain in their own country”.
“The fact that you are legally allowed to travel abroad for a procedure that is illegal in your own country shows just how hypocritical this amendment is... Men in Ireland face no such restrictions to any medical care. This is a major equality issue for women.” She branded the 8th Amendment a “barrier to progress” that denied women their “rights and dignity”. “It’s about time we dispelled with all the secrets and lies. Why should it be possible for complete strangers individually or collectively as government legislators to make personal decisions for someone else? What a woman chooses to do with her body is a personal decision – not a legal debate!” Ms La Combre claimed the current government had “swept the current repeal debate under the carpet time and again”, adding that this showed “lack of respect” for women. She said: “We, as women residing in this state, expect nothing short of being treated equal to our male counterparts and insist that decisions concerning our bodies fall with us and not others determining our fate through a constitution that is outdated, archaic and inhumane.” l The Trade Union Repeal the 8th Campaign comprises Mandate, Unite, ICTU, ICTU youth, CWU youth, Dublin Council of Trade Unions, Waterford Trades Council, and the Bray and District Trades Council. For more information, check out https://www.facebook.com/TURepealthe8th SHOPFLOOR
y October 2015
A good day at the races...
Irish Derby Day at the Curragh 2014
Picture: Florian Christoph (CC BY 2.0)
13.8% pay rise at IRIS MANDATE has brokered a 13.8% pay increase for camera patrol officials at IRIS after a higher rate for the job wasn negotiated. The agreement also includes a procedure for rostering to ensure that members know their working hours further in advance and some changes to travel/subsistence arrangements as well as the buy-out of a clothing allowance. IRIS provides camera surveillance of horse races to maintain the integrity of the sporting events.
Divisional Organiser Mandy Kane, who brokered the deal on behalf of the members, described it as “a good achievement for all at IRIS, both in respect of pay and increased certainty of hours”. She added: “Our members at IRIS make an enormous contribution to the integrity and functioning of the horse racing industry and it is appropriate that they receive recognition of this.” It is understood Ms Kane will shortly start talking to Horse Racing Ire- Mandy Kane: deal was land and the Turf Club. ‘good achievement for all’
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Mandate hails Robert Roberts double deal as ‘real movement’ MANDATE has scored a notable double victory for members at Robert Roberts after the company agreed to a pay increase as well as the unfreezing of increments for all grades. Union representatives submitted the claim in April following Robert Roberts takeover by food production company Valeo Foods Limited. Robert Roberts had remained a profitable company throughout the economic downturn but had resisted paying any increase to its workforce. According to the union, this stance had proved very frustrating to members. Following a number of meetings with Robert October 2015
Roberts’ management as well as Valeo’s HR Director, the company conceded to an 18-month pay deal pay of 2% from the April 2015 expiring in October 2016. They also agreed to the immediate lifting of the increment freeze. Mandate Divisional Organiser Dave Moran told shopfloor: “Mandate welcomes both the general pay increase and the unfreezing of the increments as it represents real movement on the pay front for our members who had continuously contributed to the success of the company but had failed to see any reward for their efforts.”
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New owners failed to attact operating company to run business
Talks on orderly wind-up of Boyers set to begin BOyERS closure is being widely seen as the first casualty of a strategic business review following last month’s purchase of Arnotts by property developer Noel Smyth’s Fitzwilliam Finance Partners. The Arnotts buyout in September 2015 had been approved by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. The closure of Boyers, which is due to take place in January 2016 comes soon after Clerys closed for business, and will leave the north side of O’Connell Street and North Earl Street areas less and less active in terms of foot-fall for existing retailers. Clerys’ closure left many workers and their families vulnerable and exposed. The move also meant that the state had to step in to fund a statutory redundancy programme. The new owners of the landmark Clerys building, Natrium Ltd and Cheyne Capital Management, funded by US-based Quadrant Real Estate Advisors, have been widely criticised for the way they went about things.
In stark contrast, Noel Smyth, of Fitzwilliam Finance Partners – new owner of Arnotts/Boyers – is committed to carrying out an orderly wind-up of the Boyers business after failing to attract an operating company for the department store. Staff at Boyers, made up of 48 directly-employed retail staff and and a further 30 to 35 concession staff, will be represented by Mandate and SIPTU, during what is expected to be an intense round of negotiations set to begin over the next few months. The terms of the redundancy package and the redeployment options for staff etc. will form part of these discussions. In order to facilitate the payment of agreed redundancy terms to those members of staff affected, a separate bank account will be set up in the joint names of Fitzwilliam Finance Partners and Mandate Trade Union into which funds sufficient to cover all claims for
redundancy. Mandate Divisional Organiser Jonathan Hogan told shopfloor: “The closure of the store is devastating news for the workforce. However, Mandate welcomes the commitment from the employer to sit down with the workers’ unions to negotiate not only adequate redundancy
The closure of the store is devastating news for the workforce. However, Mandate welcomes commitment from the employer to sit down with the workers’ unions to negotiate not only adequate redundancy terms but also, where possible, the redeployment of staff...
terms but also, where possible, the redeployment of staff. “We intend to commence these negotiations as soon as possible with the aim of securing terms agreeable for both directly employed staff and those union members working for concession holders prior to the agreed closure date of the business on 31st January, 2016.”
Mr Hogan welcomed Noel Smyth’s commitment to negotiate with the unions but pointed out that the outcome of the talks process would be the “true test of this commitment and indeed the company’s intentions”. He said the workers in Boyers have been part of not only a workforce but a community. “The Boyers brand is a household name, promoted and driven by the staff since Arnotts acquired the Boyers store in 1961. “Some staff have spent the whole of their working lives dedicated to this department store – it’s a commitment that, Mandate believes, deserves the maximum rewards.”
Protest outside Clerys – the manner of the closure of the landmark Dublin store and its impact on staff made headlines earlier this year Picture: SIPTU
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y October 2015
Er, Enda, you do know that UN Sustainable Development Goals apply to Ireland too..? Niall Crowley IRELAND has just signed up for the UN Sustainable Development Goals. These are 17 goals with 169 targets agreed at a global level to end poverty and hunger, combat inequalities, and ensure the protection of the planet and its natural resources. Enda Kenny, in his address to the UN General Assembly, committed to increase Ireland’s aid to developing countries. He said he would work with his European partners to address the refugee crisis. He declared: “As a result of our his-
tory we have a deep commitment to addressing suffering and hardship wherever they are found.” Did he really mean that? The horrors of growing homelessness, the suffering of people with disabilities in care institutions, the poverty and deprivation of groups such as lone parents, and the despair of asylum seekers in Direct Provision alone suggest he is not great at finding suffering and hardship in his own backyard.
Universal Did he know that these Sustainable Development Goals are universal? They apply to all countries. They have to be implemented in Ireland as well as in developing countries. As part of the Sustainable Development Goals, there is a target to “reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty” by 2030, under the goal to
Taoiseach Enda Kenny addresses the UN summit for the adoption of the post2015 development agenda on September 25
end poverty. The deprivation rate in Ireland stood at 30.5% in 2013. That’s at least 1.4 million people. Another target is to “progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40% of the population at a rate higher than the national average” by 2030. The top 10% of households got 23.5% of all net income here in 2012 and the bottom 10% only got 3.1%. Under the goal on “cities and human settlements”, there is a target to ensure access for all to “adequate, safe, and affordable housing” by 2030. The budget is the first test of whether these Sustainable Development Goals mean more to our political leaders than a chance to hobnob with the powerful elites of the world. Four immediate areas for investment in the budget spring to mind if we are serious in signing up for the UN Sustainable Development Goals
1. Investment in eradicating homelessness with the urgent construction of social housing, payment of rent supplement levels that reflect real market rents, measures to protect tenancies where a buy-to-let is repossessed, and additional staff and resources for the homelessness services.
Residential 2. Investment in closing congregated settings for people with disabilities. These are residential settings where people with disabilities live with 10 or more other people. The HSE has identified the need for some €250 million to deinstitutionalise and to offer a community-based model of care to these people in line with a 2011 report on the issue. 3. Investment in ensuring that any changes to the One Parent Family Payment leaving lone parents worse off are reversed, affordable and quality
Pictures: UN Photo/Mark Garten (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
childcare is increasingly available, and greater regulation of low paid, low hours work is more effectively regulated. 4. Investment in implementing the recommendations of the ‘Working Group on Direct Provision and Protection Process’ for asylum seekers. While this would not end this inhumane system it would increase the Direct Provision Allowance to €38.74 for an adult and €29.80 for a child; grant residency to those in the system for five years or more; extend the remit of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children to cover Direct Provision; and introduce cooking facilities in the centres. That would just be a start in addressing the suffering and hardship, but it would be a show of intent about the Sustainable Development Goals.
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SHOPFLOOR Assistant General Secretary Mandate Trade Union
Ending male violence against women...
A tentative step in the right direction IN REcENT months the Irish government passed the Industrial Relations Amendment Act 2015, which is a tentative step towards full collective bargaining rights in Ireland. It must not be forgotten that the promise to introduce the legislation was made whilst we were in the midst of our recent one day dispute with Dunnes states. The new law isn’t perfect and it doesn’t afford Irish workers the workplace rights others have across Europe, but it is certainly better than what had previously been in place. At a time when income inequality is at an all-time high, both in Ireland and internationally, where 84 individuals have more than half the world’s wealth, a national plan to tackle this growing social and economic problem is essential. The Trade Union Advisory Committee to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently published a paper explaining how collective bargaining should be part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce income inequality. It stated: “Rising income inequality is no longer just an ethical or normative issue – it has economic costs and restrains a broadbased sustainable recovery… Collective bargaining has served as a cornerstone institution for democracy, a mechanism for increasing workers’ incomes, improving working conditions and reducing inequality.”
In Ireland, an employer has no legal obligation to engage with their workers through their trade union – as was highlighted in the recent and ongoing Decency for Dunnes Workers campaign. This is a right aﬀorded to workers the length and breadth of the EU and most developed nations including the United States, but still denied to Irish workers. However, with this new piece of legislation, when an employer refuses to engage directly or through the State’s industrial relations bodies, the workers, through their union, can bring their case to the Labour Court for a binding recommendation. This recommendation is then enforceable through the Circuit Court. Thus far the new legislation has yet to be fully tested but it is the intention that very soon Mandate will be bringing a case on behalf of our 6,000 members in Dunnes Stores. It is difficult to know exactly how long the process of pursuing our claim under the new legislation will take or what the Labour Court will eventually decide – however, we will do everything we can to achieve a speedy and successful outcome. At a time when Ireland has the second highest prevalence of low pay in the entire OECD and the second highest prevalence of under-employment (where workers want more hours but cannot access them), this legislation is to be welcomed. It will give all workers the opportunity to have their voices heard. They will be able to say, “if other retail workers can have secure contracts of employment and decent pay and conditions, then why can’t we?”. However, the challenge is this: in order to have your case heard, the number of workers in your company being represented by your union must not be “insignificant”. Therefore if workers want to improve their lot through this specific piece of legislation, whether in Dunnes Stores, Lidl, Aldi, Smyths Toys, TK Maxx or any other retailer, they need to get themselves and their colleagues organised in the only specific union for retail workers and that is Mandate. More than ever before we must listen to the wisdom in the old adage that says there is strength in numbers and this new piece of legislation is evidence of that. The alternative, of course, is to take industrial action to improve terms and conditions of employment. Exactly what this legislation can achieve is yet to be determined. But it does offer Dunnes workers, and others, a very positive opportunity to ensure they are not left behind as the retail sector begins to improve and as “recovery” beds in.
Picture: Jack (CC BY-SA 2.0)
White Ribbon Ireland and Mandate join forces By Tom Meagher Men’s Development Network, White Ribbon Ireland Advocate WE in White Ribbon Ireland have been working closely with the unions over the last five years and we are delighted to partner with Mandate to raise awareness on issues of gender-based violence. White Ribbon Ireland is the national movement of the world's largest male-led campaign to end men's violence against women, with a presence in more than 60 countries. Our annual conference takes place on November 25th – International White Ribbon Day – and is followed by 16 days of action to end men's violence against women. We aim to encourage education and leadership around these issues by speaking directly to those in power, those who educate, and people on the ground to change the attitudes and behaviours that lead to and perpetuate men’s violence against women, by engaging boys and men to lead social change, and to achieve gender
equality. White Ribbon’s partnership with Mandate offers a unique opportunity for our white ribbon campaign to create awareness and education through the scope and profile of Mandate and the retail sector. This issue affects one in five Irish women. The lack of gender equality and the consequences of violence against women are deeply damaging for our communities. Violence against women cuts across all cultural and socio-economic divides, and usually exists under a veil of silence. Our aim is to create and nurture environments where any tolerance of violence and abusive behaviour is replaced with empathy, equality and compassion. We believe these values should be embedded in our institutions and social interactions. Mandate has shown its commitment to these values by continuing to support the White Ribbon Campaign and by focusing on these issues at a community and national level.
100% of your donation goes to White Ribbon Ireland across most network operations. Some operators apply VAT which means that a minimum of 3.25 willto to White Ribbon Ireland. Service Provider: LIKECHARITY Helpline 0766805278 SHOPFLOOR
y October 2015
3% pay deal over 18 months for Brown Thomas workers MANDATE has welcomed the brokering of an agreement with department store chain Brown Thomas which will see members pocketing a 3% pay rise in two instalments over 18 months. This will be the third pay rise – with a combined total of 7% – at Brown Thomas over the past number of years. When added to the unfreezing of increments, the union claims this represents “real movement for our members” working in the Brown Thomas Group. The pay rise will be paid in two phases – phase 1, a 2% increase in basic pay is effective from 1st August
Dave Moran: seeking deal rollout to concession shops staff
2015, followed by phase 2, a further 1% increase in basic pay effective from 1st August 2016. It is understood the agreement will run up to the 31st January 2017 Mandate Divisional Organiser Dave Moran told shopfloor: “The union wel-
comes the acceptance by our members in Brown Thomas of the pay deal.” He added: “We now intend to pursue the concession companies currently working in Brown Thomas to ensure that the deal is rolled out to these members as well.”
Deal close as Arcadia pay claim is referred to LRC Brendan O’Hanlon: ‘a central issue’
TALKs with Arcadia Group have been referred to the Labour Relations commission after management and Mandate representations failed to reach an agreement on pay. The move is in line with previous procedures. however, it is understood the National Team is currently considering a set of proposals that address the issue of certainty of hours/earnings with the retailer. Divisional Organiser Brendan O’hanlon, who is tasked with leading
discussions with Arcadia on behalf of Mandate, said: “We look forward to concluding another agreement with a major retailer that provides greater certainty of hours/earnings for our members. “The issue is central to our decent work agenda, focusing not just on the rate of pay but also the number of guaranteed hours.” Mandate has vowed to continue engaging with the company at the Labour Relations commission to bring pay talks to a successful conclusion.
Your chance to get an iconic print of James Connolly... By Sandra Stapleton Reclaim the Vision of 1916 THERE’S still a chance for you to get your hands on one of only 250 James Connolly prints by artist Jim Fitzpatrick in his own unique style. The prints are A2 size, produced in vivid colours, and each is signed and numbered by Jim. If you would like to own one of these historic prints – which will become as iconic as Jim’s famous image of Che Guevara – contact me, Sandra Stapleton, on 087 632 3178 to reserve your copy. The prints are selling fast so don’t delay. Reclaim the Vision of 1916 will be shamelessly celebrating the centenary of the 1916 Rising, which saw ordinary men and women fight against imperial rule. We want you to participate in this pageant/parade through Dublin City, which will culminate in a spectacular stage show on O’Connell Street on the 24th April, 2016. October 2015
If you or your organisation/club etc, would like to join us either as spectators or as participants, contact Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org. As the centenary approaches this presents an opportunity to open a
meaningful dialogue among citizens about the principles of 1916 and how they can form efforts to reassert Irish sovereignty, independence, democracy and the promotion of the common good in the 21st century. To give effect to such dialogue Reclaim the Vision of 1916 is hosting a series of ‘citizens’ conversations’ concerning 1916 – the first on the theme the Republican, Fenian and nationalist roots and relevance of the 1916 easter Rising took place in Liberty Hall on Thursday, 1st October. Further conversations will be held each month with future themes including: the Labour and socialist movements; the women’s movement; the Irish cultural revival; and the internatonal context and impact of the Rising. Please try to get along to one or all of the discussions – no need to book a place.
Union Representative Advanced Senior Course The Union Representative Advanced Senior Training Course is for union representatives who have completed the Introductory and Advanced course and who have experience as a union
The history of trade unionism emergence and development The of the market system The impact of globalisation trade and open markets Free in a modern society Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this training course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to the FETAC level 5 Certificate in Trade Union studies or other relevant training courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate Official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: email@example.com 15
Tom Healy NERI Director HUMAN health is the number one priority for people. Living a healthy life and enjoying well-being of mind and health of body is something that we all aspire to. Public policy can play a vital role in informing, equipping and resourcing people to achieve better health. As Irish society ages there will be increased demand for health services including provision of acute or high-dependency care for older members of the population. According to the latest data from the OECD, total spending on health came to 8.1% of GDP in 2012. This compares with an average of 8.8% in 2012 across the 21 EU member states for which OECD reported. Clearly these numbers are influenced, among other factors, by the age-structure of countries. We would expect countries such as Germany to spend more on health, other things being the same, than Ireland given the older population in Germany. One of the dramatic impacts of the 2008-2012 recession and fiscal adjustment is that the share of non-public, i.e. ‘out-of-pocket’ and private health insurance contributions went up from 25% just before the crash in 2008 to 31% in 2012. This was among the highest in the EU in 2012.
How much would a publicly-funded health service cost? This depends on many factors including long-term upwards pressures on spending arising from growing population, ageing populations, better and more expensive treatments and changes in lifestyles and behaviour. It also depends on the efficiency with which public (and private) health providers deliver services. In common with the Irish school system that owes is current make-up in terms of governance and structure to carefully negotiated arrangements in the 19th century, the Irish health service reflects an implicit or explicit negotiated settlement involving a wide range of actors within the system each with their own interests, ethos and inherited assumptions. On the assumption of a constant annual growth rate in GDP of 4% per annum (and assuming prices increase on average by 1% per annum implying a real growth in GDP of 3% per annum) total current spending on health by public and private bodies – as measured by the OECD – would increase from its current estimated level of just over €15 billion per annum in 2015 to €23 billion in 2025.
This is based on no changes in population agestructure or no changes in underlying costs or efficiencies. The probability is that costs will rise even if further efficiencies are possible. It is difficult to calculate the likely impact of ageing population on health spending given uncertainties about demographic developments. However, it is not unreasonable to assume a constant annual upward pressure on the health budget of at least €300 million (or very approximately 2% of the annual total of €15 billion in 2015) arising from various sources. Since total current public spending, as measured by the OECD in 2012, was in excess of €10 billion, a substantial increase in public spending on health may be expected over the coming seven years ‘just to stand still’ in terms of the quality and volume of services to a growing and ageing population. Given a hypothetical situation where all health spending, in 10 years time, were publicly sourced through a universal health system and abolition of 16
Monitoring the r costs of healthca all private charges and integration of existing private health insurance into a public health system (whatever the precise details of this in terms of funding), it is possible that total public spending would rise from its current estimated level of €10.6 billion in 2015 to €23 billion in 2025. This increase of over €12 billion would come from a combination of rising GDP (4% nominal per annum), long-term secular trends related to pop-
ulation, age-structure and treatment costs (2% per annum) and a gradual hypothetical phasing out of private contributions between 2016 and 2023. On the basis of this contrived scenario total spending on health would come to 9.3% of GDP in 2025 – all of it from public sources and funded through general taxation (or alternatively some type of expanded social insurance model).
Clearly, such a level of increase would put huge pressure on public finances and would, it could be argued, be so unlikely to be politically accepted as to be impossible to achieve by any Government regardless of its political hue. The estimations, cited above, are extremely crude but illustrative. More work will be needed to refine the underlying assumptions especially those relating to the impact of population and age-strucSHOPFLOOR
y October 2015
Medical Products & Equipment
BLOW THE WHISTLE ON THE BAD BOSSES
FIG 1 Public Healthcare spending by function, 2013 Hospital Services
Public Health Services
TO JOIN 10 MANDATE
These calculations, while extremely crude and illustrative, communicate the point that there are no easy options facing future Irish governments as an administration wrestles with an expanding and ageing population and competing demands on scarce public finances
1. An organising and campaigning union:
Mandate is focused on building an activist base to protect and improve employment conditions. Through better organised workplaces and the power of the collective strength, we will deliver justice for working people.
cess of that in other Eurozone economies. [SEE FIG 1] Drivers of change can come from employee-led innovation among other factors. For example, best practice in other jurisdictions should be examined to identify ways in which health staff are more in the driving seat of change and reform. Health care specialisms are costly, especially in countries and regions where population is dispersed such as in the Republic of Ireland.
2. Modern and effective training:
Mandate provides free courses to help you learn new skills, improve existing skills and develop you and your prospective career. We negotiate agreements with employers to pay for attendance at courses and also to provide reasonable time off for employees to attend them.
Picture: brykmantra (CC BY-SA 2.0)
ture change on health spending where there is much uncertainty about the scale of change. A key policy challenge in the coming years will be to reform the health system to ensure better use of existing resources as well as invest in early prevention to avoid heavy cost outlays later. There is evidence, based on Eurostat sources, that expenditure on outpatient services are in exOctober 2015
3. Campaigning for success:
Mandate is a progressive campaigning union fighting on issues that really matter to our members, their families and society in general. Mandate campaigns challenge social injustice at all levels of Irish society.
4. Protection at work:
Highly trained and skilled Mandate officials provide professional advice and assistance, where appropriate, on a variety of employment issues.
5. Safety at work:
Mandate health & safety representatives are trained to minimise the risk of workplace injuries and ensure that employers meet their legal obligations at all times.
6. Better pay: Picture: Medisave UK (CC BY 2.0)
There may be lessons to be learned from other countries in similar circumstances (e.g. Finland comes to mind). In an Adelaide Society policy paper looking a proposals for Universal Health Insurance, the private health insurance model of funding was described as: 1. Unfair to public patients; 2. Not effective: it ‘rations’ care creating long waiting lists; 3. Grossly inefficient and very poor at relating performance and outcomes to the financial allocations provided; indeed it rewards not treating patients in order to keep within ‘rationed’ allocations; 4. Perverse in the incentives it creates for those employed to provide care; 5. Involves payment for GP services for non-medical card holders, inhibiting proper utilisation of primary care – this is counter productive in health prevention terms and leads to inappropriate use of A&E services; and 6. Gives poor value to those paying supplementary private health insurance despite rising premiums and requires outof-pocket payments for basic care at primary care level for everyone except medical card holders. Whatever the future prospects for the Irish health system and the future of health policy and funding, it is clear that the provision of health will continue to absorb a significant proportion of GDP and it is sure that this will rise somewhat in the decades before us. The above calculations, while extremely crude and illustrative, communicate the point that there are no easy options facing future Irish governments as an administration wrestles with an expanding and ageing population and competing demands on scarce public finances. All of this puts the debate – such as it is – on cuts in the taxation of income in perspective.
Year on year, Mandate campaigns for and wins pay rises for its members. Mandate also campaigns to close the widening gender pay gap in Irish society.
7. Legal protection:
Mandate has won significant legal compensation for members who are injured as a result of an accident at work.
8. Mandatory pensions:
Mandate has secured pension schemes with a variety of retail employers and will campaign to secure mandatory pension schemes for all members working in the private sector, partcularly those on low wages.
9.You’re less likely to be discriminated against:
Mandate has won agreements with employers on respect and dignity at work policies and procedures. Mandate will continue to campaign for tougher laws to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, age, disability or sexual orientation.
10. You’re less likely to be sacked:
Membership of Mandate protects you and strengthens your voice in your workplace.
Together we’re stronger
JOIN MANDATE TRADE UNION ONLINE AT http://www.mandate.ie/Contact/Join.aspx
Pictures: Sinn Fein (CC BY 2.0)
y October 2015
Fury over water charges – they can’t turn this tap off...
Up to 100,000 at Dublin demo By David Gibney Mandate communications officer THE FIFTH Right2Water demonstration took place on August 29 in the centre of Dublin – again drawing a massive number of between 80,000 and 100,000 protesters on to the streets. Back in November last year, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan suggested protesters were “having their last rally around the water issue” – how wrong was he? The Right2Water campaign, of which Mandate has been a central pillar, has turned out to be the largest social movement in the history of the State. More than half a million people October 2015
have come out to protest against the imposition of unfair water charges which will impact hardest on low and middle-income families in the future. The demonstration was opened by Mandate General Secretary John Douglas who gave a rousing speech about the State of the Nation asking the pertinent question, “Whose recovery are the politicians talking about?” He continued: “It’s not a recovery for the 440 Clerys workers who had their jobs stolen from them overnight? It’s not a recovery for the 1,100 children living in emergency accommodation.” He also spoke of the Dunnes Stores
workers and thanked the Irish people for their support during the ongoing dispute. The day continued with speakers on a number of key issues – including homelessness, suicide, education and healthcare – and what would eventually culminate with the launch of a new campaign, Right2Change. On May 1, the five unions affiliated to Right2Water sponsored a conference in the CWU Headquarters where almost 200 trade unionists, political representatives and community activists came together to discuss, not only water, but 10 basic principles that would lay a foundation for a future progressive govern-
Picture: Sinn Fein (CC BY 2.0)
Screen grab of John Douglas delivering a barnstorming speech at the August 29 march
ment. They include: Right2Water, Right2Jobs & Decent Work, Right2Housing, Right2Health, Right2Debt Justice, Right2Education, Right2Democratic Reform, Right2Equality, Right2Sustainable Environment and Right2National Resources. After a six-week consultation period where almost 150 submissions came from the public, a second con-
ference was held to make amendments to the original Rights, which was then ratified by all present. l The Right2Water trade unions will be promoting the Right2Change document and principles ahead of the next General Election – go to www.right2change.ie and follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter for more information.
DID YOU KNOW?
Where only our rivers run free
(and the big corporations, of course)
They were wrong. The water charges weren’t low. They were zero. The extraction limits weren’t high. They do not exist at all. There is no limit. As the FOI documents revealed, there is no evidence that any of these companies have paid a single cent into our exchequer for the extraction, bottling and selling for profit of our natural resources. OUR natural water. Moreover there is no evidence that there is ANy cap or limit to the amount of OUR natural water that these private companies can take for profit. Who elected the politicians, local or national, that allowed this to happen? Who are these people who decided to charge us twice for something we already own, our public water and system, but to give our naturally occurring spring water away for nothing?
By Brendan Ogle Right2Water; Unite the Union SO WE know how much Irish Water wanted us to pay for our water last year. We know about the enormous movement that has emerged leading to major concessions and reduced capped charges until 2018, when we will inevitably experience a dramatic increase in prices again. We also know about the money we have already paid through progressive general taxation for decades and how our water usage is now to be metered in an alleged conservation measure (which is really a privatisation measure). And we are told that all profits will be used to rebuild and provide vital investment for our water infrastructure. This message is often accompanied by haughty tut-tutting about how we as a nation are a shower (pardon the pun) of water wastrels who spend our lives washing our many cars, watering our acres of gardens and filling our swimming pools.
So that’s how Irish Water and its commentariat in our media treats the tax-paying public that it wants to have for customers. The people who need water to drink, to prepare and cook food with, to wash and dispose of human and other waste. The necessary business of ‘living’. They don’t even want us processing our own rainwater without charging us for that too. This got us wondering, given that water is a precious natural resource, and we all own it, even if it has to be processed, how do Irish Water and our state administration treat the corporations who use our water, our wells, our springs? Not those who need it for actual life, but those who want it for pure profit-driven motives. After all, wouldn’t we all feel just a tad better about the great water war being waged on us knowing that at least Corporate Ireland is paying its fair share? So we asked, or at least James
Picture: Rob Hurson (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Moore asked. James is an activist, campaigner, a trade union member and a workplace representative, and he cares about water. James used the Foi Act to ask questions about some pretty big companies. He asked about Ballygowan. Heard of them? yes, thought so. They are BIG! Glenpatrick Spring in Tipperary. Tipperary Spring Water and Kerry Spring from the Kingdom itself are also companies of interest. In preparation, we asked some water activists two questions: what are the costs for water extraction per cubic metre and what would the limits on that extraction be for these
As the FOI documents revealed, there is no evidence that any of these companies have paid a single cent into our exchequer for the extraction, bottling and selling for profit of our natural resources. OUR natural water...
very successful and highly-profitable companies? Of course cynicism reigned. Almost 100 years of cronyism and gombeenism sucking money from poor and middle income families to give to the rich have left people increasingly cynical. So most people thought about it and opined that in gombeen Ireland, the tax haven and ‘best small country in the world to do business’ (but one of the worst to be an active citizen expecting high standards in public services and social protection) the amounts netted would be small and the extraction limits very high.
And then they have the audacity to tell us we need to pay again for water because it costs so much to process, when there are literally millions of litres of perfectly good water being extracted for profit. Ballygowan Water is owned by Britvic which is a company registered on the London Stock Exchange and has recorded profits of €90.68m for last year. In defending our Right2Water, the affiliated trade unions sponsored a public consultation process which has developed, ground up, 10 policy principles to reshape how Ireland is run and for whom it benefits. We want to see an economy working for our people, not the other way around. We want to see vindication of our Right2Water, or Right2Democratic Reform and our Right2Natural Resources. In short we want to vindicate our Right2Change Ireland. We, and we believe the people of Ireland, have had enough, we deserve much better and we are demanding that change. Come to one of our local meetings and have your say. Find out more on www.right2change.ie
y October 2015
Mandate Trade Union Training Programme for the rest of 2015... Course Title
Union Representative Introductory
November 2, 3, 4,
Union Representative Advanced Senior
November 9, 10, 11
Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced
If you are interested in attending any of these courses, please contact your Mandate Official or the Mandate Organising and Training Centre at 01 836 9699 *OTC = Mandate Organising and Training Centre / *TBC = To be confirmed
Venue dates and times may vary.
Setting course... Mandate shop stewards who attended an Introductory Union Representatives course held at the Organising and Training centre last month. Uni Europa’s Laila castaldo, seated left, spent some time with the group learning about their roles as union representatives. Laila had been on a twoweek placement with Mandate
Union Representatives Introductory Course The Union Representative Introductory Training Course is for new shop stewards/union representatives. The course aims to provide information, skills and knowledge to our shop tewards/union representatives to assist them in their role in the workplace. COURSE CONTENT: • Background to Mandate • The role and responsibilities of a Shop Steward/Union Representative • Examining disciplinary/grievance procedures • Developing negotiating skills • Representing members at local level • Communication skills/solving members’ problems • Organising, Recruitment and Campaigns • Induction presentations. CERTIFICATION AND PROGRESSION: Members who successfully complete this course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to a Union Representative Advanced Course and to other relevant training courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org October 2015
Usdaw members against Refugee crisis: Congress extended opening hours UK Shopworkers’ union Usdaw has released survey results which show that 91% of retail staff in large stores in Britain are opposed to longer opening hours. The results of the Usdaw survey of more than 10,000 shopworkers have been passed to the UK’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills as part of the their consultation on Sunday trading. General Secretary John Hannett, inset right, said: “Our members in large stores remain absolutely opposed to extended Sunday trading. The number one reason for their opposition is the detrimental effect this would have on their family life. “Many shopworkers, particularly parents, told us how important Sunday is to them and their family. Often
it is the one day of the week when everyone can sit down together for a meal, with many saying they needed the time on Sunday to help their children prepare for the school week. “Three-quarters of those questioned already work some Sundays and they made it clear to us that six hours trading is enough, with over half saying that they already come under pressure to work more on Sunday. If large stores opened for longer there would be more pressure on staff to work.”
THE Irish Congress of Trade Unions has urged the Government to seek an effective and humane EU response to the refugee crisis and offered the use of Congress training and education facilities to help with any refugee settlement and integration programme. In a September 18 letter to Frances Fitzgerald, the Minister for Justice & Equality, ICTU General Secretary Patricia King, pictured right, said: “We would strongly urge you to advocate for an EU policy that is based on solidarity to ensure greater recognition, welcome and settlement of refugees within EU territory. We would particularly ask government to ensure that refugees are fully integrated in suit-
SPPECIAL OFFER FO R ME M BERS O F
offers training centres
t un 25disco
able accommodation and that all necessary support is provided." Ms King explained that the Congress Centres Network – comprising 25 centres nationally – could be
made available to “provide support, resources and a range of services to vulnerable groups in our society and excel in key aspects of training, upskilling and job seeking supports.
HMCA have now introduced the “NEW” Caare Startter Cash Plan and ĂƌĞĂƐŚWůĂŶ͕ǁŚŝĐŚĐĂŶƉƌŽǀŝĚĞƚĂǆͲĨƌĞĞĐĂƐŚďĞŶĞĮƚƐƚŽǁĂƌĚƐ͗Ͳ KǀĞƌŶŝŐŚƚ,ŽƐƉŝƚĂůĞŶĞĮƚƐ ĂǇĂƐĞĞŶĞĮƚƐ Maternity Grant 'WΘWƌĞƐĐƌŝƉƟŽŶĨĞĞƐ KƉƟĐĂůΘĞŶƚĂůĞŶĞĮƚƐ Personall A Acciden id t C Cover Special Services ŽŵƉůĞŵĞŶƚĂƌǇDĞĚŝĐŝŶĞĞŶĞĮƚƐ KǀĞƌƐĞĂƐĞŶĞĮƚƐ
Picture: Martin Cathrae (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Why not make the call and check on your PRSI status?
The full range of plans also available for Manda M te Trade Union ŵĞŵďĞƌƐĂŶĚƚŚĞŝƌĨĂŵŝůŝĞƐŝŶĐůƵĚĞ͗Ͳ Care Cash Plans Life Plan Pl Dental Plan Personal Accident Plan Travel Plan Vehicle Breakdown Recovery All of your calls are handled personally by a friendly and professional ƚĞĂŵǁŚŽĐĂŶĂŶƐǁĞƌǇŽƵƌƋƵĞƌŝĞƐĂŶĚŽīĞƌĨƵƌƚŚĞƌĚĞƚĂŝůƐŽĨĂůů the plans.
PLEASE CALL DONNA OR LISA ON 01 6130316 FOR AN IN NFORMAL CHA AT T OR ENQUIRE ON NLINE www.hmcaireland.ie/m mandate.htm 09/56650 ©2015 22
ONE of the most important things for any employee to do, and do regularly, is to check whether his/her PRSI contributions have been paid over to the Department of Social Protection. Unfortunately, just because your contributions are listed on your payslips, or even on your P60, it doesn’t always follow that the monies have been paid over by your employer. To be clear, in most cases employers fully comply with their legal requirements, but if you happen to work for an employer that doesn’t, you will be the one who ends up paying a heavy price with regards to entitlements for pension, redundancy and jobseekers benefit. It is especially important to make this check if your job is transferring to a new employment under Transfer of Undertakings – you do not want to find out years later that a previous employer failed to pass on your contributions to the State. A recent case illustrates this point. A man with 47 years’ service with the one employer lost his job only to discover that there was a gap of 13 years in respect of remittance of his PRSI payments to the De-
partment of Social Protection. This meant that his statutory redundancy entitlement was reduced by 13 years i.e. 26 weeks’ pay – no small matter. What’s worse is that the same man will now only qualify for a reduced state contributory pension, or perhaps only a non-contributory pension which would be means tested. Normally this man would have qualified for Jobseekers Benefit of €188, plus €124 payment for a qualified adult – his spouse, in this case, and would also receive a payment of €29 for each school-going child. As a result of the shortfall in PRSI payments this man currently receives just €200 per week. All of this adds up to a considerable loss, despite the fact that he was personally not at fault in any way. The moral of the story is to take the time to check that your PRSI payments have been received by the Department of Social Protection. A simple phone call to the pRsI Records Oﬃce in the Department can do the trick; the number to call is Locall 1890 927 999. As with all of these things, it’s always better to be safe than sorry! this article first appeared in Liberty SHOPFLOOR
y October 2015
SKILLS FOR WORK Interested in a computer training course?
Time to retire, let’s celebrate?
Picture: American Advisors Group (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Bill Kelly Divisional Organiser THE question is why anyone would want to celebrate leaving work when all it means for most Irish working people is moving from a struggle to pay bills and put food on the table to not being able to at all. The way we celebrate reaching 65 would make you think that the price of electricity, gas, oil, clothes and food suddenly drops to half price. The reality for the majority of Irish working class people who do not have an occupational pension is that retirement equals poverty. According to the oeCD Review of Pension systems: ireland, only 41.3% of workers in Ireland (2009-10) were members of a pension scheme. Only 35.7% of working women were in a pension and this figure drops to 21.8% for part-time workers. This is an alarming figure when you consider that the majority of workers in retail are female and work part time. While I have always encouraged Mandate members of all ages to join a pension scheme I am very aware that for many this cannot be a priority as they are faced with the daily difficulty in paying bills, providing food for their families now and are not in a position to worry about what may happen in 10, 20 or 30 years’ time. The harsh policies of austerity have hit Irish working families hard and have left many in poverty with no hope. I have no doubt that these figures are even worse in 2015 as austerity has left many people with
no choice but to stop making payments to pension schemes in favour of putting food on the table. The current old age contributory pension is €230.30 per week and you only receive that if you have enough contributions throughout your working life to qualify for it. My very own sister, Liz, at 67 years of age has no choice but to continue working. Having been out of the workforce while raising my nieces and nephews, she only qualified for a contributory pension of €196 per week. Liz is fortunate to be in a position where she is working in a Local Development Project and continues to work two days a week. Even with the income she has from the two days’ work, I see the weekly struggle she has to make ends meet.
It is a disgrace that so many workers – many of whom have worked for nearly 50 years – are abandoned to these circumstances. And what you may ask has the Government done? They have increased the age at which workers receive the State Pension. Currently it is 66 and is due to increase to 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028. you would think that hand in
Only 35.7% of working women were in a pension and this ﬁgure drops to 21.8% for part-time workers. This is an alarming ﬁgure when you consider that the majority of workers in retail are female and work part time
hand with this move they would abolish the right of employers to continuing using a mandatory retirement age of 65 but no, this mandatory retirement age continues in many companies. This will leave the majority of workers being forced out of work at 65 years of age with nothing to live on except Job Seekers benefit. In representing members I have become aware that many UK-based companies have a positive attitude to the employment of workers over 65 years of age and facilitate them continuing to work. Unfortunately many Irish companies do not and continue to force people out of employment at 65. Isn’t it time that our government stopped working-class people being forced further into poverty at 65? There are many ways that this could be done. They could reverse the increase in the age that the state pension is paid and increase the level of the payment to pensioners thus ensuring no-one has to live out old age in poverty. They should also make it illegal for employers to force workers to retire at 65. It makes no sense to continue to allow employers to force workers to leave a job at 65 and then insist that they claim Jobseekers which obliges them to seek work. It is also time that employers stopped actively discriminating against older workers by insisting on continuing their policy of mandatory retirement. Retirement should be a specialtime of life. It should be a time that you get to treat your grandchildren, spend more time with your partner and get to really enjoy the things you never had time to while at work. It should not be a time of struggle and poverty.
CHECK OUT http://www.welfare.ie/en/downloads/oecd-review-of-the-irish-pensions-system.pdf
Do you have a desire to improve your communication through computer skills but never got around to it?
Communications through Computers Starting from scratch this course helps you to use a computer and builds confidence for communicating on-line. Mandate Trade Union in conjunction with Skills for Work is offering free training. The courses are to encourage members back into learning and training whilst aiming towards a FETAC level 3 Award. If you are interested in doing a Communications through Computers course, contact: Mandate Training Centre Distillery House Distillery Road Dublin 3 Phone: 01- 8369699 Email: email@example.com Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education & Skills.
Picture: European Parliament
Ireland’s grocery market has wings
Musgrave Group ‘on track to return to profits’ ThE MUsGRAVE Group, owner of the former superquinn brand which became Ireland’s number one grocer in 2014, announced an operating profit before exceptional items of €66m for the year. After exceptional costs of €70m and property profits of €11m, the loss for the year after tax was €13m, compared to a loss of €113m in 2013. The Group is expecting a return to profits in 2015. Musgrave Group chief Executive chris Martin said: “In 2014, the investments we have made in our brand development strategy delivered, with superValu becoming Ireland’s number one grocery retailer, centra cementing its position as the country’s leading convenience brand and Marketplace growing ahead of the market. “As part of our Group transformation agenda, which is about positioning the business to deliver long-term sustainable growth, we announced our exit from Great Britain, combined our retail and wholesale businesses in Northern Ireland and integrated the former superquinn business with superValu. “With the transformation well progressed and given the strong position of our brands, the business is now on track to return to profit in 2015.”
Picture: Frankieleon (CC BY 2.0)
TESCO'S quarterly sales in Ireland grew for the first time in over more than years but rivals Dunnes and Lidl were also winners from the back-to-school sales, according to new figures from research company Kantar Worldpanel. The latest supermarket share figures published for the 12 weeks ending September 13, show a year-on-year growth in sales of 1.8% across the Irish grocery market. Over the same period, Tesco sales rose by 0.3% compared to the same period in 2014. Kantar's figures show the supermarket is still the leader in the Irish market with a share of 24.8%. Georgieann Harrington, insight director at Kantar Worldpanel, said: “After an unprecedented period of decline, Tesco has posted growth of 0.3%. This is the first time sales have increased for the retailer since early 2013. “Making the most of the back-to-school season, the grocer has seen its spend from families with children – a heartland for the retailer – increase by 4%. “A modest increase in shopper num-
bers overall has certainly played a part in Tesco’s recovery, and its customers are also buying more products per shop in the latest period, helping to boost the retailer’s performance.” Meanwhile, anti-trade union retailer Lidl – which refuses to allow Mandate to meet with workers in their stores or to represent members for collective bargaining purposes – posted growth in sales of 9.5% over the 12-week period, the fastest of any of the big chains. Dunnes sales were up 5.2% as it closed the gap on the second largest supermarket SuperValu. SuperValu’s growth continues at a slower pace capturing 24.3% of market share. The number of visits to its stores increased by 5% this period, with shoppers spending €16 more on average than they did last year. Dunnes has 22.7% of the market, by sales, up from 22% a year ago. Kantar says the Irish grocery market has now posted 18 consecutive months of growth in sales.
Target gets its first union in US A TINy group of Target employees in Brooklyn have pulled off what no Target employees ever have before: they’ve formed a union. Target, which has been around for more than 50 years, has nearly 350,000 employees in 1,800 US stores. yet it has never had a trade union in any of those stores in its entire history because it is a voracious and committed anti-union corporation from the top down.
Target employees have previously told in sordid detail about the sort of poor pay and terrible working conditions that would make the company ripe for organizing. Jason Kellner, a former Target employee, is suing the company for being fired for “performing work activities without having been 'clocked in’,” despite him saying he could never take a full 30
minute break without being interrupted and asked to do work. The last serious Target union drive came in 2011 at a store in Valley Stream, New york. The union was voted down after a contentious campaign, amid charges of company misconduct. But now a group of nine Target pharmacy workers have voted 7-2 to unionise with the UFCW. Huge corporate retail and fast
food chains are probably the American companies whose employees could most benefit from unions. That’s why those companies are willing to do almost anything to keep unions out. Perhaps the balance has just tipped a tiny bit in the workers’ favour.
HMCA – providing tailored products and services for Mandate members and their families SINCE 1996, the Hospital & Medical Care Association (HMCA) have been providing a range of voluntary products and services, specially tailored to the needs of Mandate Trade Union members and their families. We have over 35 years’ experience dealing with over 700 Associations in delivering first class service at highly competitive rates. All of your calls are handled personally by a friendly and professional team who can answer your queries and offer further details of all the plans. The full range of plans available for Mandate Trade Union members and their families include: “NEW” cARE sTARTER cAsh pLAN Provides you with a list of tax-free cash benefits towards: l Hospital Benefits: Day-case and overnight admissions. l Extra Benefits: GP and Prescriptions l Specialist Services: Consultations, investigations, pathology, scans, x-rays & physiotherapy. 24
l Dental Benefits: Hygiene and dental examinations, x-rays, remedial or restorative treatment, dental accidents and oral cancer. l Optical Benefits: Eye examinations and benefit towards spectacles. l Complementary Medicine Benefits: Osteopathy, Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Chiropody and Podiatry. l Personal Accident Cover: Accidental Death Cover and Permanent Disability Cover within the EEA. l Maternity Grant: Per Birth * when both parents have been members of the plan for at least 12 months. “NEW” cARE cAsh pLAN l Provides cash benefits for you or your family’s medical expenses with enhanced benefits to the Care Starter Plan. Additional benefits under both the Care Starter Cash Plan and Care Cash Plan as follows: l 24-hour medical telephone helpline.
l Pays double benefits for accidents when hospitalised. l Even pays double benefits when overseas and in hospital. l Has 24-hour protection in the European Economic Area (EEA). l Special guaranteed transfer facility. DENTAL pLAN l Provides you with cover at any dentist for: Routine examinations, hygiene, x-rays, remedial and restorative treatment. Cover is also provided for emergencies, accidents and oral cancer. LIFE pLAN l Provides your family with a tax-free lump sum if you die, up to the age of 79. pERsONAL AccIDENT pROTEcTION pLAN l Provides 24 hours a day, 365 days a year worldwide cover for: Accidental death, permanent disability, legal expenses and liability cover.
TRAVEL pLAN l Provides €12 million World Wide or European Cover – annual or single trips, covering: Emergency medical and transportation expenses, cancellation and curtailment, delayed departure, loss of baggage, loss of baggage and cash, personal accident benefits and personal liability. Winter Sports and Golf cover is optional at an additional cost. VEhIcLE BREAKDOWN REcOVERY cLUB l Provides full cover for home-starts, roadside-assistance and recovery following an accident or breakdown. Cover also includes: theft-recovery, hotel accommodation, relief driver and 7 days FREE Continental Cover. All plans are backed up by a first class claims handling team who will ensure efficient and prompt settlement of your claim. Please call Donna or Lisa on 01 6130316 for an informal chat or enquire online at www.hmcaireland.ie/mandate.htm SHOPFLOOR
y October 2015
HERE’S MY VIEW... UCD lecturer Dr Julien Mercille takes issue with Irish Times Political Editor Stephen Collins’ analysis of the upcoming elections
iRish times Political Editor Stephen Collins' latest article on the upcoming election – titled stability or chaos is the choice facing the irish electorate – reveals how the media often conveys the Government’s message almost verbatim, and rather uncritically. The alleged choice between “Stability or Chaos?” is one you will hear repeated often in the coming weeks. The claim is that voting for mainstream parties will preserve stability, while voting for independents and anti-austerity parties will bring chaos. Of course, we think of “stability” as a good thing and “chaos” as a bad thing. Therefore it’s supposed to make you want to vote for Enda Kenny again. But the reality is this: the “stability” that Collins longs for is in fact the “stability of the Irish establishment”, which he thinks must be protected. “Chaos”, on the other hand, is anything that disrupts the establishment and takes away its prerogatives. A few illustrations may be found on the website of the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI), which produces two documents every three months that are must-reads for anybody who wants to understand the economy: the Quarterly economic observer and the Quarterly economic Facts. They give a picture of the economy and present key indicators about the state of the economy in a language that is easy to understand. NERI has just released the documents for the autumn quarter. What kind of “stability” have the mainstream parties given us, and would logically continue giving us if re-elected? l As David McWilliams’ excellent documentary the Great Wealth Divide showed, wealth is still very concentrated in Ireland. The top-20% of households own 73% of the country’s wealth. The top 10% own 54% and the top 1% own 15%. Stability means this won’t change. l The budget is still focused on cutting taxes, which are regressive and unnecessary as Ireland is a low-tax, low-spend economy, which prevents investment in public services. This gives us the stability of poor public services. l We have a 21% rate of unemployment and under-employment combined (under-employed people are those who would like to work fulltime but are stuck in part-time jobs). For the last five years, that number has remained very stable indeed, oscillating between 330,000 and 475,000 people. l The unemployment rate is still at nearly 10%, rather stable as well, as it is not falling very rapidly.
l The youth unemployment rate (for those under the age of 25) is still at 21%. Stability again. l The deprivation rate is still very high, at 31%. Stability here too. Sure, you could counter that whatever the poor state of the economy, we are now in recovery mode, so things are getting better. This is true, things are getting better and the recovery is becoming more real. But unless we adopt the low standards of Fine Gael-Labour, we should quickly point out that things could be much better if the Government made better decisions. What are those better decisions? They are
What kind of ‘stability’ have the mainstream parties given us and would logically continue giving us if re-elected?
Illustration: Xoan Baltar (CC BY 2.0)
A choice between stability or chaos? Let’s look at the evidence...
policies that Stephen Collins would call “chaotic”. But in fact, they would actually improve our quality of life and the economy. For example, there are a series of projects that could be accomplished: l More investment to upgrade our poor-quality infrastructure. This will raise economic productivity, among other things. IBEC, the employers’ association, agrees and calls for €1 billion extra investment in the upcoming budget. The population also agrees and wants more spending, not tax cuts, as revealed by an important irish times opinion poll just released. l Wealth tax on the rich. Even a small tax could raise about €300 million according to NERI. you don’t need to be a member of the hard Left to call for this. David McWilliams did in the Great Wealth Divide, just like economist Stephen Kinsella in the sunday Business Post, along with many others. l Invest in better public services so we can
catch up with other countries. This will lower our cost of living (for example, thanks to cheaper public transportation and health care costs) and would increase employment take up and retention (for example, if the state provided better childcare services, parents would find it easier to work). l Don’t cut taxes: Ireland is already a low-tax economy, and in any case, the tax cuts proposed by the Government in the upcoming budget are regressive, meaning that they will mostly benefit the better-off. And there are many more possibilities explained in the NERI documents. In short, the choice is not between “stability” and “chaos”. It’s between supporting the establishment, or supporting everybody else. Julien Mercille is a lecturer at UCD. His book Deepening Neoliberalism, Austerity, and Crisis: Europe’s Treasure Ireland is out. Follow Julien on Twitter: @JulienMercille. A version of this article first appeared in www.broadsheet.ie
SKILLS FOR WORK
City of Dublin Education and Training Board
Interested in doing a Communications course?
Do you have a desire to improve your communications skills, but never got around to it?
Starting from scratch this course helps you to improve your communications skills. Mandate Trade Union in conjunction with Skills for Work are offering members the opportunity to attend training. The courses are to encourage members back into learning and training while aiming towards a FETAC level 3 Award.
If you are interested in attending this training contact:
Mandate Training Centre, Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Phone: 01-8369699 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education and Skills. October 2015
Concession brands call as Arnotts staff get 3% rise Picture: William Murphy (CC BY-SA 2.0)
MANDATE has brokered a new 18-month pay deal with management at Dublin retailer Arnotts. The agreement – which was subsequently accepted by members in a vote following a recommendation by the union – also unblocks incremental pay which had been frozen since 2009. Under the terms of the deal, sales and clerical staff at Arnotts are to receive a phased 3% pay increase, effective from August 1, 2015. From August 1, 2015, staff will get a 2% increase (duration 12 months); and from August 1, 2016 another 1% increase will be applied (duration six months).
reached one year’s service. “An exception to this is for staff who have five years’ service on their current rate. These staff will move to the next rate on the incremental pay scale as of 1st November 2015 and on this date each year thereafter.” The 2015-2016 deal follows a 2% pay rise at Arnotts last year. In a message to concession brand owners, Mr Hogan said Mandate “would not stand idly by and allow a situation to develop where workers offering a similar service to their Arnotts colleagues are offered inferior terms and conditions of employment.”
Industrial Officer Jonathan Hogan told shopfloor: “While the pay claim has been overwhelmingly accepted by the members, the reality is that many of these workers have been employed for the past number of years on low rates of pay.” He also called on concession brand owners operating in Arnotts to apply the 3% pay rise to their workers. The agreement forms part of a Mandate strategy to restore rates of pay frozen after a collapse in trade at Arnotts in 2008 and 2009. Mr Hogan claimed the success of the pay claim was due to “the solidarity shown by the workers”
And he called on all workers operating within these concession brands to stand together, join Mandate and “begin a revival that sets out to better the terms and conditions of these workers”. He added that such a change could only happen through a “mobilisation of workers”. “While retail sales are witnessing positive growth, it’s important our members also experience growth in their disposal income. “The retail sector will then become a natural beneficiary of this extra disposable income, which develops a broader economic view of the sector, where all the stakeholders within the sector, witness the fair distribution of that success.”
as well as underlining the “benefits of being in Mandate”. In addition to the pay rate increase, the incremental pay scale is to be unfrozen from November 1, 2015 as follows: “As staff’s individual anniversary start date occurs, their rate of pay will increase to the next point in the pay scale, once they have already
While retail sales are witnessing positive growth, it’s important our members also experience growth in their disposal income
Labour in 1915 Irish Labour History Society
Union Representatives Advanced Course The Union Representative Advanced Training Course is for shop stewards/union representatives who have completed the introductory course or who have relevant experience.
Course content: • Understanding Mandate’s structures • Overview of Mandate’s rules • Industrial Relations institutions and mechanisms • Mandate’s Organising Model
• • • • •
Negotiations & Collective Bargaining Understanding Equality and Diversity Developing induction presentation skills Introduction to Employment Law Identifying issues and using procedures
Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this training course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to the FETAC level 5 Certificate in Trade Union studies or other relevant training courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: email@example.com
on the cusp of the Revolutionary Year October 9th -11th Liberty Hall Theatre
Opening address by President Michael D Higgins followed by a full programme of talks and panel discussions More details on www.irishlabourhistorysociety.com
Registration for this conference is via PayPal on www.irishlabourhistorysociety.com Admission for Friday or Saturday is €10 each day, or €15 for attendance on both days. There is no admission charge on Sunday.
y October 2015
HERE’S MY VIEW...
THROUGH gritted teeth, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a ‘staff discussion note’ during the summer which contains a bit of a bombshell. The ballooning inequality that results from rampaging top people’s pay is not, as previously thought, an unfortunate by-product of technological process or increasing world trade. At least 40% of the increase in bosses’ pay is down to the decline in union influence. And a further increase in inequality results from reductions in the level of minimum wages. Who could have guessed it? The IMF staff are quick to point out that this doesn’t mean they support blanket measures to increase unionisation, promote collective bargaining or raise minimum wages. They say that decisions need to be taken on a country-by-country basis to avoid such measures increasing unemployment. But the message is nonetheless pretty clear. The researchers find that higher union density is particularly linked to a more equal distribution of net incomes, indicating unions’ strong impact on redistributive policies.
Why stamping down on union influence leads to a rise in inequality... inequality, such as technological progress, globalisation, political and social factors, financial deregulation, and declining top marginal tax rates. “Moreover, the weakening of unions appears to be associated with less income redistribution, likely through a reduced influence of unions on public policy. Although causality is always difficult to establish, the decline in unionisation appears to explain about half of the observed increase in top income shares and in the Gini of net income (Gini is a summary statistic that gauges the average difference in in-
Wage restraint for one group of stakeholders in the company means a blowout for the people at the top – again who’d have thunk it?
Inequality According to their results the decline of union density explains on average 40% of the increase of the top 10% income share over the period under consideration (broadly between 1980 and 2010.) And it’s worth remembering that the IMF considers such inequality to be a pretty bad thing. There are two key ways in which lower union density has allowed top people’s remuneration to leap ahead of the rest of the workforce. Firstly, and obviously to anyone but an economist, if unions are less able to secure wage rises for the mass of the workforce, there is more left over for the people at the top. Wage restraint for one group of stakeholders in a company means a blowout for the people at the top – again, who’d have thunk it? Secondly, although much more difficult to quantify, the researchers accept that weaker unions mean that the political pressure for more redistributive action – such as progressive taxation, stronger public services, higher benefits for the unemployed and disabled and so on – is reduced. Rich people get to keep more of their income because unions are less able to press governments to take it and use it for measures which benefit the mass of the people. One of the two authors of the paper, Florence Jaumotte, said in a recent interview: “We find that the decline in unionisation is strongly associated with the rise of the income share of the top 10% of earners (to the detriment of middle- and low-income workers) in advanced economies. “This holds even after controlling for other established determinants of October 2015
come between any two individuals from the income distribution). “In some countries, the erosion of minimum wages (relative to median wages) is also correlated with considerable increases in overall inequality.”
Cynical suggestion? It took the IMF four months to get round to releasing this paper (originally trailled in a magazine article back in March) and a cynic might suggest that it has been held back until after the Greek bailout was agreed, including measures that will clearly – on the basis of this research – increase inequality by weakening unions and collective bargaining still further. But the message is pretty clear. It’s not changes in labour market structure, or economic progress, that leads to ballooning, and damaging, inequality. It’s attacks on unions. Ironic, then, that this comes out a week after the Conservative Government in the UK unveiled yet more attacks on trade unions!
Illustration: Xoan Baltar (CC BY 2.0)
Owen Tudor is Head of the TUC’s European Union and International Relations Department. This article first appeared on the ToUChstone blog at http://touchstoneblog.org.uk
US dole figures –the real and the bogus... By Bernard Murphy THE US economy is the model of what neoliberal pundits in Ireland and elsewhere believe a progressive modern economy should be. Hence, the international corporate media circus has been trumpeting the glad tidings: US end-of-summer unemployment figures are currently down to 5.1% from 6.1%, this time last year. The message for all of us: neoliberal capitalism creates jobs and so benefit the bulk of the population of the USA. By extension, it shows how our economy can ascend from the doldrums and our youth have access again to prospects of having decent jobs. Forget about the calibre of this US employment, and the fact that an inordinate number of those in employment subsist below the poverty line. Or that they may need to simultaneuosly hold two or three jobs just to survive. Just concentrate on that magical 5.1% employment figure! How real is it? A brief look at how wool is pulled over the eyes of the unwary shows us that the said employment figure is completely bogus – that the real US unemployment figure is more than four times that. So, how was 5.1% arrived at? The US Bureau of Labour Statistics has six official unemployment criteria: U1: The percentage of the active population that has been unemployed for 15 weeks or more last August stood at 2.2%, down from 2.9% in 2014. U2: The percentage of the active population that has lost its employment or has finished its temporal employment in August 2015: 2.6% (3.1% in August 2014). U3: This is the only official criterion normally used. It reflects the percentage of the active population without work that actively sought employment in the previous four weeks. In August 2015, the figure stood at 5.1% (6.1% in August 2014). U4: Add to U3 the "demoralised worker", those who stopped searching for work in the previous 12 months because present economic conditions make them believe that such a search would be futile. Last August the figure stood at Official (U3)
5.5% (6'6% in August 2014). U5: Add to U4 persons linked only marginally to the labour market who are neither working currently nor searching for work but claim they would like to, are available for work and have looked for work sometime over the previous 12 months. Last August, the figure stood at 6.2% (7.4% in August 2014) U6: Add to U5 workers in temporary employment who wish to be fully employed but cannot due to the prevailing economic circumstances. Last August, that figure stood at 10.3% (12.0% in August 2014) Therefore, all of these data must be taken into account, rather than the U3 criterion alone, to know what percentile of the US population is unemployed. Doing that, we see that the unemployment figures in the USA are more than four times what is proclaimed.
Criterion How did this obvious fudge come to be? The U6 criterion was modified in 1994 by the Clinton regime to put a more favourable spin on US unemployment data. Until that time, it included not only "demoralised workers", who stopped searching for work in the previous 12 months but also those who had looked for work at any time earlier than the previous year. In his web page, Shadow Government Statistics (Shadowstat), the investigative economist John Williams, calculates the U6 criterion as it is without this Clinton massage, which is to say: much more realistically. Thus he demonstrates clearly that the real rate of unemployment in the USA in August 2015 was a whopping 23% – nearly a quarter of that nation's workforce. In the graph below, we see the evolution from 1995 to the present of US unemployment as reflected in the official U3 rate and in the U6 rate both before and after the Clinton "massage". Thence, bogus unemployment figures designed to hide the true extent of the deepening US unemployment crisis, as reflected in the ShadowStat graph below, are worthless, being based on patently distorted data. Broadest (U6)
20% 15% 10% 5%
Published: Aug 7, 2015
Little point in many mums returning to work...
Micheál Collins IT MAKES little financial sense for many Irish mothers to return to work – that’s the conclusion of a new EU research study looking at the realities of the back-to-work choice faced by women across EU member states. The study, by Olga Rastrigina and Alina Verashchagina, focuses on the financial gains for families where women return to work. It calculates the ‘Participation tax rate’ (PTR) faced by these earners, which summarises the combined effect of gains in earned gross income, payments of income taxation and social insurance contributions alongside any losses of welfare entitlements. A participation tax rate of 50% implies that half of the gains in earnings from commencing work are lost through changes to taxes and benefits. For women in Ireland returning as second earners they found that: l Participation tax rates for women with no children are the second lowest in the EU, at 14.2% only Greece has a lower rate. l Participation tax rates are also low for women with two children, at 18.2%, where these couples do
Picture: Flazingo Photos (CC BY-SA 2.0)
not have to pay for childcare. l However, in situations where couples have to pay for childcare, the participation tax rate for a women with two children rises to 94% – the second highest in the EU. In simple terms, the research finds that an Irish woman with two children and returning to work is €6 better off for every €100 gross income earned - €18.40 goes to tax and social insurance and €75.60 goes to childcare. If one were to take into account the additional costs of work (transport, clothing etc) this small gain is likely to disappear. A mother in a similar position in other EU countries is better off by the following for every €100 of gross income earned: l Germany + €15 (PTR = 85%) l Holland + €77.90 (PTR = 22.1%) l Sweden + €68.10 (PTR = 31.9%) l Austria + €70.90 (PTR = 29.1%) l Spain + €69.10 (PTR = 30.9%) Only returning mothers in the UK face a worse situation than Irish women – where the costs of child-
Given the current cost of and provision of childcare in Ireland, from a financial perspective, most stay-at-home mothers are best advised to stay at home...
care more than wipes out any gains from taking up employment. Despite the research finding that Ireland possesses rates of income taxation that are among the least discouraging to labour market participation in the EU, the inclusion of out-of-pocket childcare costs significantly alters the financial choices women (and couples) make regarding returning to work. As such, the research findings point towards a need for policy to address the provision of affordable childcare – both as a key aspect of boosting labour market participation and as key equality measure. Looking at mothers returning to work at levels of earnings equal to their partners, the Irish PTR faced by a women with two children is less severe (65.1%) although it remains the second highest in the EU. There are many reasons beyond income which make it worthwhile for women to return to work. However, given the current cost and provision of childcare in Ireland, from a financial perspective, most stay-at-home mothers are best advised to stay at home. The study which was conducted as part of an EU-wide equality research project is at http://bit.ly/1irTzUn A previous paper looking at the costs of work for employees in Ireland is at http://bit.ly/1M8qHtM
Micheál Collins is Senior Research Officer at the Nevin Economic Research Institute SHOPFLOOR
y October 2015
PROMISING tax cuts that will benefit the wealthiest and portraying it as good for you and your family. Behind every tax cut is a political agenda and someone has to pay in the end. your health services; your children’s education; public transport; social protection; this is simply a return to boom and bust economics and it’s entirely irresponsible! Have they learnt nothing from the crisis over the last seven years? This is politics as usual as political parties scramble for your vote promising what’s popular in order to win re-election. Don’t fall for it because you’ll be the one who pays the price in the long term. Below are some examples of how the Right2Change National Fiscal Framework would improve living standards – specifically tackling the issue of high living costs (public services, incomes supports) which are preferable to tax cuts. 1. If public transport received as much in subsidies as other European countries, there would be additional routes, greater frequency and 33 percent less cost on fares. Monthly tickets would fall by over €500 per year. Compare this to tax cuts of €4 to €5 per week which would be far more costly. 2. Tax cuts will reduce resources for the health sector. This will force many on to private health insurance. Not only is this costly – health insurance costs have increased by 60 percent in the last four years – with more increases planned next year.
3. Nursing Home Care costs on average €800 (rural) to over €1,200 (Dublin) per week. Tax cuts will take away resources from income supports for those in nursing homes. How much of those weekly costs will you be able to afford for your parents or elderly relatives?
4. In other European countries, fulltime childcare can cost as low as €150 per month, in some countries it is free (France). Here, childcare costs range from €600 (rural) up to €1,000 (Dublin). Bringing childcare costs down to European levels would result in savings of thousands of euro per year for families. No tax cut could come close to that.
5. If we spent as much on money on every boy and girl in education as they do in Europe, we’d have to spend over €1 billion more per year. Barnardos estimates that a small portion of that – €200 million – would provide fully free education: free textbooks and school transport and the end of ‘voluntary’ contributions and classroom resource fees. That would save families between €250 to €350 per child each year.
6. In most other countries, if you get sick, you will get up to 80 percent of your wage from the first or second day of illness as sick pay. In Ireland,
Politicians are trying to buy your vote... 8 Picture: Xoan Baltar (CC BY 2.0)
you have to wait six days and you’ll only get a flat-rate of €188. That’s why workers not covered under a company plan (and there are fewer and fewer of these) can’t afford to go sick and are forced into work while still ill.
7. In most EU countries, support is given to families after the end of maternity benefit. For instance, in Austria families can receive child-raising allowances, in addition to Child Benefit for up to three years. These supports can range from €80 to €150 per week depending on how long you stay out of work. Most other EU countries provide for these allowances in addition to Child Benefit – to help families with child-related costs and allow them to say with
The Government is turning us into laboratory hamsters running on a tax-cutting wheel, getting nowhere...
their children in early years. In Ireland, we are an exception and have no such scheme.
8. The Government is proposing a 2 percent cut in the USC. This will cut a cheque of €1,000 for all high-income earners (above €70,000). A low-paid worker will get less than €3 per week. In the meantime the Tánaiste is opening up new food banks.
9. Irish workers are not high-taxed compared to other European workers. But we have much higher living costs – for healthcare, education, public transport, child-related costs. For example, most people, tax cuts won’t even keep rate with inflation. Tax cuts will go into one pocket and out of the other in higher living costs.
NOTES ON THE FRONT October 2015
But if we cut taxes we won’t be able to fund the public services and income supports to reduce living costs. The Government is turning us into laboratory hamsters, running on a tax-cutting wheel, getting nowhere.
10. An average-income worker will get €230 per week for maternity benefit. If we had the Belgium system, that worker would receive €422 per week; the Finland system: €440; the Austrian and Dutch system: €550 per week. In those countries they also have paid paternity leave – Ireland does not. Workers get far more support in giving birth and raising children throughout Europe. The Government claims to want to help out ‘hard working families’; but they actually don’t.
Commentary on Irish Political Economy by UNITE research oﬃcer Michael Taft www.notesonthefront. typepad.com
FROM WHERE I STAND...
Trade deals are fundamental to the imperalism of today’s world By Ed Teller IMPERIALISM exists today. Even if the mainstream media and a large part of the Left don’t talk about it, it is the overarching system in which we operate. We cannot understand the inequality of Ireland, the reason for the Bank bailout, the role of the ECB or the refugee crisis without understanding and considering Imperialism. Many incorrectly see imperialism merely as the war machine aspect of capitalism. This isn’t entirely correct. Imperialism isn’t just the savage bombing of yugoslavia, the invasion of Iraq, the overthrow of Gaddafi or the shocking creation of a civil war in one of the Middle East’s most stable and progressive countries, Syria. Although these are all part of the system, of course. No, Imperialism is also the dominant position played by a small number of monopoly corporations and private investors and their ability to move production to the cheapest parts of the work dividing worker against worker and reducing tax regimes in a race to the bottom. Imperialism is also the indebtedness of so many nations forced to beg for loans with heavy economic and political conditions attached. And Imperial-
ism is also the global legal structures created over the last 60 years through a variety of ‘trade’ agreements internationally and within Europe. From the General Agreement and Tariffs and Trade first signed in 1948 and the European Steel and Coal Community signed in 1951 right up to those currently being negotiated, these treaties have encompassed increasing parts of the political economy of nations and states and have increasingly had negative effects on public services, regulations, jobs, the environment and working conditions.
President Obama: ‘US must write the rules for a globalised economy while we’re strong’
NAFTA They are usually ‘negotiated’ by one set of ruling class interests with another. So, take for example the NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement, negotiated by the establishments of the United States, Canada and Mexico agreed in 1994. The hailed increase in investment for Mexico was largely in slave-like factories on the border of the US created to take advantage of cheap labour, benefiting local elites and US firms. The promised Mexican middle class has never been created. The US lost over a million jobs. Canada has suffered a massive loss of jobs in steel and
Protestors against the North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada – predictably workers in all three countries lost out with a million jobs lost in US alone
in food exports to the US. It has, however, made a few in all three countries incredibly rich as it was negotiated to do. In May 2015, a Nike Inc conference, Obama stated: “We have to make sure America writes the rules of the global economy, while our economy is in the position of global strength… Because if we don’t write the rules for trade around the world…” there will come a
time when, “guess what? China will.” This is the US’s position in ‘negotiations’ with the EU in the ongoing TTIP engagements but the EU is equally trying to shape the world in its fashion for companies such as Siemans and Volkswagen and for banks like Credit Agriculture and Deutshce Bank. This trade agreement will further subjugate peoples to the wishes of corporations, on both sides of the Atlantic.
This agreement will further subjugate peoples to the wishes of corporations, on both sides of the Atlantic. It will also pit workers against each other as well as regulations and tax rates – all in a downward spiral to the advantage of corporations here and in the US.
It will also pit workers on both sides of the Atlantic against each other as well as regulations and tax rates – all in a downward spiral to the advantage of corporations here and in the US. And what is good for business is not necessarily good for workers if the things under attack are our wages, public services, environment, food quality and health and safety.
Do your bit on the Shopfloor! SHOPFLOOR KEEPS YOU INFORMED... HELP KEEP US INFORMED BY EMAILING STORIES & PICTURES ABOUT YOUR WORKPLACE Please contact SHOPFLOOR at firstname.lastname@example.org or post your article to Shopfloor, Mandate Trade Union,9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 30
y October 2015
Capitalism – it will all end in tears postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future By paul Mason published by Allen Lane REVIEW By Dermot Connolly A NEW book by Paul Mason, Channel Four's Economics Editor, poses some interesting and quite challenging questions for those of us who consider ourselves to be socialists or indeed Marxists. Mason is someone who places himself firmly on the Left. He is a well-informed and ferocious opponent of the neo-liberal agenda, austerity, and indeed capitalism itself. He says the 2008 crash was not just another episode in the normal boom and bust cycle of capitalism, but represents an impasse of the system, an inability to adapt to the new technology and take off again as had happened with capitalism in the past. In his view, the new technology based on information is incompatible with a market economy. More on this later. He predicts a bleak future if the 1% continue to rule. Decades of austerity, even less democracy, and stagnation in the world economy, and this is the more benign perspective. By 2050 the effects of climate change really kick in, alongside mass migration and resistance to it, wars, the failure of states, the breakdown in the 'global order' as states attempt to push the cost of the crisis on to others, in other words, chaos. But this is not inevitable. We can move beyond capitalism to a new political and economic system which Mason describes as postcapitalism. This can be a world where intelligent machines can reduce the need for work to a minimum, a society of abundance and not scarcity in terms of what's needed for a decent life, a society based on co-operation and sharing. Mason
Persuasive argument: C4’s Economics Editor Paul Mason outlines how capitalism has finally hit the buffers...
challenges mainstream socialist and Marxist theory as to how such a new society can be brought about. For Marx, capitalism was its own gravedigger, creating, as it developed, a powerful class, the industrial working class who would inevitably oppose it and overthrow it. Having taken power, the working class would establish a workers’ republic (dictatorship of the proletariate). This would be a 'transitional' regime, with the state managing a planned economy under workers’ control, leading over time to a socialist and classless society. Mason is a keen admirer of Marx, but he believes Marx and Engels were wrong about the working class. He says 200 years of experience show a working class preoccupied with “living despite capitalism”. Workers have developed a form of working class cul-
ture within capitalism but have also adapted to the system. He recognises the history of struggle to improve or defend conditions, but points out the failure of the workers to prevent an elite usurping power in the Soviet Union, leading to the monstrosity of Stalinism. But recognising this tendency of workers to adapt to capitalism is not new. Lenin wrote about the stratification of the working class with a skilled layer becoming an 'aristocracy of labour' particularly in the imperialist countries. These formed a conservative layer. Leon Trotsky was more nuanced in explaining the difference between the revolutionary working class in Russia 1917 and those in Britain for example. He explained that the Russian workers came fresh from the country
Picture: Global Justice Now (CC BY 2.0)
side into the factories in mass concentrations whereby in Britain workers had generations to adjust to various forms of capitalist production. No one doubts that the relationship between the working class and capitalism is much more complicated than envisioned by Marx and Engels in the mid 19th century. The reality is that conservative ideas and revolutionary potential exist side by side in the working class. Having concluded that the working class will not be the agent of revolutionary change, Mason seeks a different path to a postcapitalist society. He claims that new technology, especially in information, is today creating a new economy within capitalism. For someone who struggles with a smart phone this part of his book is a real
challenge, but here goes. As technology develops it will be possible to produce machines at virtually zero cost. These machines will increasingly replace labour, but labour and not machines are the source of new value and unpaid labour is the source of profit. This an obvious contradiction in a system based on profit. Also if very few workers are employed, who is going to buy the goods produced? The other problem for a market economy is that information is not a one-off product. It can be consumed/used over and over and also consumed and both shared. This idea of a new economy developing within an older one is going back to the situation where capitalism developed over time within feudal society. But feudalism did not just fade away, it was overthrown by the capitalist class in violent revolution and civil war. Mason accepts that this new economy has to be facilitated by governments but that is the key question, which governments? They can only be left-progressive governments. But we have seen what happened to such a government in Greece. We will need a number of such governments to successfully challenge capitalism. They will need to be supported by mass social movements in which organised labour and the working class in general play a decisive role. The working class is in recovery after the events of the last 20 or so years – Syriza, Podemos, the Corbyn election campaign, the revolt on water charges show the potential for a new Left. A massive new industrial working class has been created in China, Asia and Latin America. This working class is no longer white, no longer male, and no longer concentrated in the Advanced Capitalist Countries. It will not have generations to adapt and adjust to the demands of capitalism. Paul Mason finishes his book by saying "there is good news, the 99% are coming to the rescue, postcapitalism will set you free". Exactly.
SKILLS FOR WORK Interested in doing a personal finance or maths course? Do you have a desire to improve your personal finance skills? Or maths skills? But never got around to doing it?
Personal Finance and Maths course City of Dublin Education and Training Board
Starting from scratch this course helps you to improve your maths and personal finance. Mandate Trade Union in conjunction with Skills for Work are offering members the opportunity to attend training. The courses are to encourage members back into learning and training while aiming towards a FETAC level 3 Award. If you are interested in doing a Communications through Computers course, contact: Mandate Training Centre, Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Phone: 01-8369699 Email: email@example.com
Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out-of-date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education & Skills. October 2015
Mandate Trade Union's Shopfloor newspaper